A motions hearing last week saw attorneys for both the city of Dawsonville and Mayor James Grogan issue arguments before the judge who will decide if Grogan’s appeal of a May 15 vote by council to remove him from office should be dismissed and if he should continue to remain in his position.
The city filed a motion June 29 to dismiss the case filed by Grogan, in which he sought direct appeal and a new trial and requested a jury trial.
Dana Miles, city attorney, argued at the Aug. 2 hearing that Grogan’s appeal for a new trial was not the correct method of appeal as he filed de novo, for a new trial, as opposed to by certiorari, by review.
“If the decision of the city council was a judicial or quasi-judicial decision, a recent Georgia Supreme Court case mandates that the only method of review is by certiorari to the Superior Court,” Miles said. “The city’s motion seeks to have the court follow that Supreme Court case and dismiss Grogan's direct appeal.”
Grogan’s initial appeal also contained an alternative appeal, which according to Miles would involve the Superior Court judge reviewing the transcript from the hearing of the city council and not a new trial.
Miles said that Grogan’s attorneys failed to follow the required procedures for review set forth in state law and that his alternative claim should be dismissed as well.
Grogan’s attorney Steven Leibel argued that the decision of the council should not stand because Grogan was elected by a vote of the people and that the council did not have the power to remove him.
Leibel also said that an appeal for a new trial was in fact allowed and that the Supreme Court case that Miles referred to is not controlling in Grogan’s case.
“Really and truly what we have here is a case where the legislature allowed us to go forward with an appeal like we would a probate court and we have rights in a probate court, we have rights to determine if we want to go by cert and if we want to go by trial de novo,” Leibel said. “What’s interesting is the [case] doesn’t say you can’t go by trial de novo, it says that the writ of certiorari can be used in certain cases.”
Miles also filed a motion stating that if the appeal is not dismissed, Grogan should not be able to continue acting as Mayor until a final ruling is made, as he has been doing since he delivered a notice of appeal to City Manager Bob Bolz on May 17.
According to Miles, Grogan currently receives salary and benefits from the city that total over $3,600 per month, which he said he would like reimbursed to the city if the mayor is removed. Also, if the case moves forward for any length of time, Grogan’s actions under the city may become void if he is later removed, Miles said.
Leibel said nothing to address the issue of whether Grogan should remain in office should the case proceed.
Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller, who heard the case, said he will submit a ruling in writing “as quickly as he can” after Leibel files a response to a separate motion to dismiss filed by the city council’s attorney, Tony Powell.
Leibel has until Aug. 11 to file.
Miles responded Monday to Leibel’s response brief on the city’s motions that was filed just before the hearing.
“If [Grogan’s] case is dismissed, then his removal from the office of mayor on May 15 by city council is affirmed,” Miles said. “If the case is not dismissed, and/or summary judgement granted to the city, then the case would proceed to final hearing in Superior Court.”
Grogan did not attend the hearing.
Council members Angie Smith, Caleb Phillips and Mike Sosebee were in attendance.
Councilman Jason Powers was not present during the hearing.
The council voted 3-1 with Sosebee opposed to remove Grogan from office after the May hearing, bolstered by a presentation of findings from an attorney hired specifically to investigate Grogan’s actions.
The attorney, Abbott Hayes, alleged that Grogan had misused city funds and violated the city charter, which he said were grounds for removal. Grogan immediately declared his intention to appeal the decision, and his official petition for appeal was submitted to the Superior Court July 14.