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Grantville mayor's lawyer invoices council

  • By Jeffrey Cullen-Dean
  • |
  • May. 27, 2022 - 4:41 PM

Grantville mayor's lawyer invoices council

The Newnan Times-Herald

At the Grantville council's May 23 meeting, Chris Balch, lawyer for Grantville Mayor Doug Jewell in his lawsuit against members and a former member of the city council, invoiced the city of Grantville for $14,736.65 for his services for the mayor.

The lawsuit resulted from members of the city council amending the city charter to give more power to the city manager.

On April 1 this year, the Superior Court ruled that the council did not have the authority to change the city's structure of government.

In February 2020, the Grantville City Council voted to overturn Jewell's veto of changes to the city's charter that would have effectively given the city manager more governmental authority than the mayor.

Jewell then filed for injunctive and declaratory relief against the three council members who voted for the changes in March 2020, which included council member Jim Sells, council member Alan Wacaser and then-council member Mark King. Council member Ruby Hines voted against the changes to the charter and was not listed in the lawsuit.

Wacaser said he does not intend to vote in approval of paying the fees.

"You sued us. You drew first blood. You rarely ever see a situation where a mayor sues three council members. I will never vote to pay these invoices," he said.

Hines said she felt the mayor should be compensated because the judge ruled in his favor.

"It was clearly stated that what those three gentlemen were trying to do was illegal, and they proceeded anyway. I think it would be fair not to let this go and pay what is rightfully due to the attorney," she said.

Balch was present at the meeting and said, according to the Supreme Court case Gwinnett County v. Yates, when an elected individual sues a city for an alleged violation of state law and is successful in that lawsuit, the city owes that elected individual those attorney fees.

The city would not pay Balch his full rate, the lawyer said, because he took the case at a 50 percent discount.

Sells made a motion that the council table the decision until the next council meeting. When the council was originally presented with the invoices, he said, the fees were $5,000 less, and he would like to have more time to look over the documents.

Council Members Casey Evans, Sells and Wacaser voted in approval to table the decision, while Hines voted in opposition.

In a previous Newnan Times-Herald article, City Manager Al Grieshaber said King, Sells and Wacaser were covered by the city's insurance because they were the defendants in the lawsuit.

Though King is no longer on the council, he remained covered by the city's insurance because the lawsuit was filed in March 2020, when King was a council member.

Grantville's policy covers public officials for up to $10,000 in legal fees.

In Nov. 2020, the Grantville council approved a motion to exceed the $10,000 limit. King, Sells and Wacaser voted in approval, while Council Member Ruby Hines opposed the motion.

Because Jewell brought the lawsuit against King, Sells and Wacaser, he was not covered by the city's insurance and had to pay his own attorney fees. Grieshaber said if the lawsuit was the other way around, and Jewell was the defendant, then he would be covered by the insurance policy.