The first item on the agenda during Monday night’s Dawsonville City Council meeting was a discussion of the salary currently allocated for the mayor position, followed by a discussion of when an acting mayor will be appointed to fill the position until a special election can be held in March.
Council member Caleb Phillips said that he would like the mayor salary, which is currently $2,000 per month as outlined in the city charter, to be decreased due to the fact that the council hired City Manager Bob Bolz last November to fill an administrative role that formerly belonged to the mayor.
“I think the charter amendment is to look at the mayor position salary based on now that we have a city manager, there’s not as much work,” Phillips said. “The [current mayor] salary I think is 97 percent higher than anybody in the state.”
Council member Mike Sosebee said he would not vote to decrease the salary.
“Dawson County is not like every other place in the state,” he said. “You got places in south Georgia that got the same populations that has no income whatsoever and this is a growing, thriving community. You can’t base it on that. I’m not going to vote to change the salary because I think that...will attract a lower class person.”
Phillips said that there are places larger than Dawsonville where mayors make way less, and said that the chairperson for Dawson County commission is paid less than the Dawsonville city mayor, whose salary totals over $24,000 a year.
For 2017, Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond’s salary is $14,712.13.
Phillips also alluded to a previous conversation between himself and Sosebee, and said that Sosebee had brought up the mayor salary to him.
“Did you not tell me that money was given to Joe Lane Cox when he was here based on what he done? Did you not tell me that?” Phillips said. “You’re the one who brought this to me.”
Sosebee said when Joe Lane Cox was mayor, the council decided to give him more money each month for all of the extra meetings he attended rather than have him fill out reimbursement forms so often.
In addition to $2,000 a month, the mayor is also paid $100 per each special called meeting, work session or other pre-approved meeting outside of regular meetings, and is reimbursed for city business related and council approved travel, lodging and meals, provided they produce documentation of their expenses.
City council members operate under the same stipulations, only they receive a monthly stipend of $500.
Sosebee said he will not be voting to change the salary, and voted against advertising public hearings for the council’s Dec. 4 and Dec. 18 meetings. Phillips and council member Angie Smith voted to proceed with hearings on the potential change.
The council will also be voting to appoint an acting mayor as early as Dec. 4.
City Attorney Dana Miles said that under the city charter and state law, the council needs to appoint an acting mayor. The acting mayor will serve until a special election in March when a new mayor will be elected and sworn in.
Miles said that qualifying will be in January and that a qualifying fee will need to be set sometime in December.
The appointed acting mayor must meet all of the qualifications for an elected mayor- they must live in the city, have lived in the city for at least a year and be registered and qualified to vote in city elections(meaning they are 18 years of age or older).
Former Mayor James Grogan, who was formally removed from office Oct. 9 after his appeal was dropped by the Superior Court, recently announced his intention to run again for the position in March.
A recent election to fill two city council seats saw voter turnout at 16 percent, with 282 voting out of the 1,790 registered active voters in the city.
The council also voted to approve an updated intergovernmental agreement with the Dawson County Board of Elections and the county for the board to hold the 2018 special election.
Consideration of council seat posts
Also on the agenda for December, the council will discuss amending the section of the city ordinances that deals with elections by adding posts.
Currently, the mayor and each council member are elected at large and not from districts. The two candidates who receive the highest number of votes fill the two offices.
The council is considering adding posts so that those running for city council seats must specify which seat they are running for instead of the two with the highest votes getting the open seats. The council is not considering creating districts, like the county commission currently has.
Meetings pushed back to 7 p.m. for 2018
The council voted to approve the 2018 council meetings and work session dates and times, and change the meeting times from 5 p.m. Mondays to 7 p.m. Mondays.
Also different for 2018, the work sessions will be both work session and regular meetings, so that votes can be taken during those meetings as well as at traditional regular meetings.
Planning Commission meetings will be held at 5 p.m. on Mondays and Historic Preservation Commission and Downtown Development Authority meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on Mondays.
New council members to be sworn in Dec. 18
Council members-elect Mark French and Stephen Tolson will be sworn in at the council’s Dec. 18 meeting. At that meeting, they will assist in electing the mayor pro tem for 2018.
Miles said that is the only act they are authorized to do before Jan. 1 when they officially take office, filling the seats of Sosebee and council member Angie Smith.