As of noon Monday, James Grogan was forced to vacate his position as Dawsonville city mayor.
A ruling filed Monday morning in the Dawson County Clerk of Court’s office by Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller dismisses Grogan’s appeal of a May 15 city council decision to remove him from office.
Following an Aug. 2 hearing on the appeal case, Fuller writes that Grogan failed to comply with requirements that specified how his appeal was supposed to be made.
“Since the decision of the city council on May 15, 2017 was a judicial or quasi-judicial action, [Grogan’s] only avenue for review is to petition for a writ of certiorari,” Fuller’s ruling reads.
Grogan instead filed an appeal de novo, or asked for a new trial.
Grogan also failed to serve the city council within five days of filing with the Superior Court and failed to name the council in his petition and de novo appeal, Fuller writes.
Due to these defects, Fuller writes, the Superior Court cannot rule on the case and it is therefore dismissed, upholding the previous decision of the city council.
City Attorney Dana Miles said that according to city charter, the next step is that the Mayor Pro Tem, council member Jason Power, will act as mayor until the council appoints an acting mayor. Then that person will serve until a special election can be held.
According to Georgia law, the window to call for a special election to fill the spot this November has passed. The next available special election date will be the third Tuesday in March of 2018.
But this isn’t the end of Grogan’s fight, according to his lawyer Steven Leibel.
Liebel said Grogan's legal team is reviewing the decision to determine the best method of appeal to a higher court, and that he disagrees with the ruling that a new trial cannot be granted.
“We think the judge has given us a good opportunity for appeal,” Leibel said. “We as a legal team were disappointed by the lower court's decision, but we feel comfortable that our legal position is sound and we will ultimately be vindicated by the reviewing court.”
Leibel says there is a 30-day window in which to submit an appeal.
And with two city council seats up for election in November, the decision could become moot, Leibel said.
“The new council could make a political decision that [removing the mayor] was improper and vote to rescind the decree,” Leibel said.
The seats of council member Angie Smith, who voted to remove the mayor, and council member Mike Sosebee, who voted against the removal, are up for election Nov. 7.
Smith said she is pleased by the judge’s ruling.
“It was important to me to have [Fuller] recognize that we acted appropriately and that no one’s rights were violated,” Smith said. “It’s the outcome we hope for and I’m ready to continue working.”
Council members Jason Power and Caleb Phillips also voted to remove Grogan from his position.
After learning of Grogan’s plans to appeal the decision a second time, Phillips said that he was disappointed that more taxpayer money would be spent.
“If they choose to appeal it, he’s the one costing the tax payers money,” Phillips said. “The council voted to remove him and the judge upheld it.”
Phillips also said he is pleased with the decision and that the council is ready to move past it.
“We’ve got a lot of exciting things going on in the city right now, from pouring sidewalks to preparing to bid out the park work,” Phillips said. “We’re looking forward.”
As of press time, Power and Sosebee could not be reached for comment.
Grogan said Tuesday he will be getting together with his lawyer with plans for another appeal, but that he could not comment further.
Grogan was accused during a May 15 hearing of misusing city money and unilaterally making decisions that violate the city charter.
An investigation into Grogan’s actions was initiated by the council after a February meeting in which council members openly denounced a previous decision by Grogan to allow Gold Creek subdivision residents to annex and rezone their properties into the city at a rate lower than was specified in the city charter without a vote from council.
Further accusations of the misuse of funds to buy alcohol with city money and lowering the amount a city property owner paid for water and sewer were also brought up during the investigation, among others.