The case of Grogan vs. the City of Dawsonville went before the Georgia Supreme Court last week, where representation for ousted Mayor James Grogan presented oral arguments as to why dismissal of his appeal by the Dawson County Superior Court should be reversed.
Grogan’s lawyer, Steven Leibel, also presented an appeal to the superior court’s March 2018 decision that will allow the city to recoup the $25,060.88 in salary and benefits that were paid to Grogan during the five-month appeal process.
Grogan, 76, was removed from office May 15, 2017 by a 3-1 vote of city council after an investigation into allegations he had misused city funds and violated the city charter.
Grogan appealed the decision and continued to act as mayor until October 9, 2017, when Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller ruled in favor of the city and dismissed Grogan’s appeal, stating he could not review the case due to the manner in which Grogan’s representation appealed the case, as well as their failure to serve the council or the city with a copy of the writ of certiorari and their failure to name the city council in the caption of the petition.
Leibel argued before the state Supreme Court Oct. 10 that the form of his appeal was permitted under the city’s charter and that the May 2017 hearing in which the council voted to remove Grogan was not a judicial hearing, therefore entitling Grogan to a new hearing before a jury.
Leibel also fielded the suggestion by Supreme Court Justice Nels S.D. Peterson that most of the case is moot because Grogan is no longer an elected official and, due to the recent election, cannot be reinstated to his term in office.
Leibel said that a new trial before a superior court judge would give Grogan an opportunity to clear his name and afford him due process.
“The remedy is his name is good and he can go and run for election and say ‘I went through the process and I was cleared,’” Leibel said. “If he is convicted then there is an argument that he would be ineligible to run for further office.”
Dana Miles, city attorney, said during the oral arguments that there is no provision under the City of Dawsonville ordinances that prohibit Grogan from running again.
“When someone basically runs for office again, like he did, and loses, all the issues that are related to that are thereby moot,” Miles said.
Miles also argued that the only method of appeal of the city council’s decision was a certiorari appeal, and that Grogan served the appeal to the city outside the deadline required.
In his final remarks to the court, Leibel said he believed the city asked for Grogan’s salary and benefits back to punish Grogan.
“We believe that that pursuing of the money...was to set a tone and an example that they should not ask for their rights for an appeal,” Leibel said.
Leibel said Tuesday he hopes the state Supreme Court will find that the process of Grogan’s removal was wrong and he will be given a new trial before the superior court. He said he did not know how long it would be before the Supreme Court delivers a decision.
“We’re not asking to reinstate him,” Leibel said Tuesday. “He can’t be, he took his chance to run and he lost. (But) he has a right to clear his name.”
The city’s motion to collect the legal fees that the city incurred due to Grogan’s appeal is still pending. Miles said in March that if the city council decides to pursue the fees, that Grogan would then be entitled to a jury trial.