Quo warranto. Jasper Superior Court. Before Judge Brown.
Ronny E. Jones, pro se.
Boone, Scott & Boone, James S. Green, for appellee.
HUNSTEIN, Justice. All the Justices concur.
This is an appeal from a trial court's order granting a writ of quo warranto based on that court's conclusion that appellant Ronny Jones was not appointed as attorney for the City of Gordon, Georgia (the " City" ), in accordance with the City's charter. The quo warranto action was initiated by appellee Joseph Boone, who prior to May 21, 2014, had held the position of city attorney in Gordon for 35 years. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the order granting the writ of quo warranto.
The relevant facts in this case are undisputed. Under the City's charter, legislative authority is vested in a city council, which is comprised of a mayor and six council members. Charter of City of Gordon, § 2.10 (a). Except as otherwise provided in the charter, the affirmative vote of at least four council members is required for the adoption of any motion or resolution. Id. at § 3.15 (a). The mayor, who as a general rule presides over city council meetings, is authorized to vote on matters brought before the city council only in those cases where there is a tie vote, " except that [she] may vote in all elections for officers who are elected by the city council and impeachment or removal proceedings whether there is a tie or not." Id. at § 3.22 (8). With regard to the appointment of a city attorney, the charter expressly provides that the " city council shall appoint a city attorney" who " shall serve at the pleasure of the city council." Id. at § 4.12.
At a May 21, 2014 Gordon City Council meeting presided over by Mayor Mary Ann Whipple Lue, a motion was made to terminate Boone's services for the City as city
attorney. The vote on the motion by the council members in attendance was three to two in favor, with one abstention. In the absence of the requisite four votes by council members, the mayor voted in favor of the motion, resulting in a vote [297 Ga. 438] of four to two. After some discussion about the immediacy of pending legal matters, Boone's continuing legal and ethical obligations to the City, and the necessity of transferring Boone's files, a motion was made to authorize Mayor Lue to appoint an interim city attorney. The vote on this motion was again three to two in favor, with one abstention; the mayor again concluded that she was authorized to vote and cast her vote in favor of the motion. The following day, Mayor Lue announced that she had appointed Jones as the new city attorney.
Boone subsequently sought leave to file a petition for writ of quo warranto challenging the validity of Jones' appointment. Boone specifically contended Jones' appointment by Mayor Lue was an ultra vires act because the mayor was not authorized to vote on the May 21, 2014 motions pertaining to the office of city attorney in the absence of a tie vote by city council members. See Charter of the City of Gordon, § 3.22 (8). The trial court agreed, concluding that (1) the " city attorney serves at the pleasure of the council pursuant to section 4.12 of the City Charter" ; (2) " the power exercised by the mayor to appoint [Jones] as city attorney was not within the mayor's powers" ; and (3) Jones " is not the duly appointed attorney for the City of Gordon, Georgia." Because it determined Mayor Lue did not possess the power to appoint Jones as city attorney, the trial court granted Boone's petition for quo warranto.
1. Jones challenges the procedural posture of Boone's petition for writ of quo warranto, arguing both that Boone did not have standing to seek the writ and that the trial court did not grant Boone the necessary leave to ...