The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Snellville resident filed a complaint Wednesday accusing Mayor Kelly Kautz of violating state law by twice using city funds to cover personal expenses, and doing so without approval of the city council.
The complaint was filed by Kenneth Stepp, who runs the nonprofit organization Gwinnett Ethics. It was filed with Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter’s office, and asks that the district attorney’s public integrity investigator look into the case.
Porter confirmed receipt of the complaint Wednesday, but said he hadn’t reviewed it and could not comment further.
Kautz did not return phone messages left at her law office, and did not respond to an email message requesting an interview. Her cellphone voice mailbox was full and would not accept new messages.
The complaint cites two cases where Stepp alleges Kautz misused city funds by circumventing the city council and city manager. The first was a $2,000 payment to cover part of her tuition to Leadership Gwinnett, which is professional training offered through the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
The complaint calls Leadership Gwinnett a “personal enrichment course.”
“Kautz claims that the council approved the payment, yet no vote was ever taken,” the complaint says.
Snellville’s fiscal year 2014 budget has a $2,000 line item listed as “Dues & Fees Chamber event.”
Two city council members said that is money set aside as the city’s contribution to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, not for tuition to Leadership Gwinnett.
“We had money in the budget for the Chamber of Commerce, it was never set aside for her,” Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts said. “Other council members have gone through it, and the city has never reimbursed us for it. It’s self-improvement. It’s not like learning how to be a mayor.”
The other instance in the complaint stems from legal bills related to a lawsuit filed against Kautz and the city by a resident who was not allowed to finish speaking during the public-comment period of a city council meeting earlier this year.
The complaint says the city and its insurance company were already represented by attorneys but Kautz hired another firm without a vote by the council. It says she did so with the intent of that firm defending her personally.
“Kautz circumvented the standard protocol for payment and illegally directed a staff member to pay a Cruser & Mitchell invoice without the knowledge of the city council or the city manager,” the complaint says.
Councilman Dave Emanuel said Kautz’s explanation for retaining the firm is that she was hiring assistant city attorneys. But Emanuel said that can only be done with council authorization.
“Hiring Cruser & Mitchell was never authorized,”