“To have a discussion, let alone a vote on legal invoices that is not an ordinance, amendment or supplementary transfer is in conflict with our charter as well as the [Georgia] Supreme Court ruling,” she said about striking legal invoices from city council agendas.
During the discussion that followed, council members Sharonda Hubbard and Marcel Reed said they would not support a motion, eventually delayed until the July 1 meeting, to allow City Attorney Corliss Lawson free rein to pay the invoices up to $75,000 out of her department’s $2 million portion of the $33 million general fund.
Invoices on the consent agenda, which is for items usually not requiring discussion, were for $66,000 for outside counsel by eight different law firms during the month of April.
Thursday’s session replaced last week’s regular meeting, at which Hubbard “was asked to be removed” and council members Lance Rhodes Jacqueline Slaughter-Gibbons walked out over disagreements “whether to adjourn” the June 3 council meeting, which had been reconvened June 17, according to city spokesman James Hammond.
Hubbard said at the June 20 meeting that City Manager Reggie Taylor is required to seek approval for any expense more than $25,000 out of his department’s $300,000 budget.
“Every other department comes before the council. Our own recourse is not to fund the legal department’s budget,” Hubbard said.
“There have been complaints from citizens regarding our legal fees. I will not give up my right to have oversight over departments that report directly to council.”
Lawson said it wasn’t the money; it was the potential exposure to the city.
“I don’t have a problem with you all looking at the invoices. The detail on them discloses attorney-client privileged communications. If you publish that to the world, it’s hard to defend the city,” she said.
Councilman Myron Cook suggested the deferral.
“I’m sensing some unrest up here,” he said. “If we vote tonight, this item’s going to fail.”
What's next? The city council will meet Monday at 6:30 p.m. at 1526 E. Forrest Ave.