Statham mayor Joe Piper Tuesday read a prepared statement, in response to the city council’s call to resign his office. Among other grievances, council members claim that Piper violated city policy when he entered into a severance agreement with former city employee April Stephens, without obtaining sign-off from the city attorney.
Piper’s statement read as follows:
“The council has decided that my actions have violated the Charter, and that talking to the news media violated their trust and put the city in a liable situation. This council demands that I resign from my elected post. Information provided by the council in this resolution states that I did not seek advice from the attorney, and that I did not have the contract reviewed.
I did seek the advice of the counselor about the events and conversation of that morning; however, I admit to failing to have the contract reviewed. The situation was chaotic, with a disgruntled employee threatening to involve the city in an ugly lawsuit, which she may or may not have won. The cost to the city is a minimum $25,000 deductible, regardless of the result – a lot more than the severance package in dispute. I was acting in the best interest of the city by trying to avoid litigation. This city council wanted April Stephens fired and gone for years, then when she was terminated, you’re still not happy.
I asked for impact fees three different times (based on $2,000, times 320 homes built or slated for build to date), and the council voted it and the $640,000 down. These fees are collected from new homes for people moving here and the impact they have on the community, not the current residents. However, everyone benefits from those funds.
I asked for water exploration and water independence. The city council (including four members who ran on that platform) voted NO. It seems they oppose it now, rather than giving the mayor a ‘win.’ Well, we all lost. Currently, the city has nearly $1.3 million set aside for water exploration and sewer repairs, that doesn’t come out of tax dollars.
One cannot tell the newspaper what to write, and they report on things they hear and see while viewing the meetings in person and online.
This council holds me accountable for my actions, yet you will meet in groups of three or more (constituting a forum), and this is in violation of the Open Meetings Act. This also puts the city in a liable situation, every time you meet in an unadvertised quorum.
This council says they have lost trust in my actions or motives; this is unjust and misplaced. This is exactly what you are doing here tonight.
This resolution is pointless. It is non-binding and just an opportunity to sling political mud at the expense of the taxpayers who expect professional behavior of the adults they elected to represent them all, not just the few. Rather than us engaging in pointless displays, I am asking this council here tonight, to work with me so we can make Statham a better, happier place to live and prosper.”
Following Piper’s speech, councilmember Lee Patterson provided his input on the issue via a phone call. No further remarks were made by council before it unanimously passed the resolution.
City development code amended
Council members voted Tuesday to amend the city’s development code. According to city attorney Jody Campbell, the ordinance provides for a revised appeals process to reflect legislation passed at the state capitol during the last legislative session). The ordinance also restricts rental homes in any new developments to no more than 10 percent of the homes built, barring hardship. In essence, any new 100 percent rental subdivisions are prevented.
D.R. Horton denied additional building permits
Builder D.R. Horton was denied the release of 20 additional building permits prior to completion of the planned amenities in the development.
Council votes to table decision to sign rental contract
The city of Statham has 30 days to vacate the current space in which a plotter and city documents are stored, but they voted Tuesday to table the signing of a contract with United Rentals for an 8 ft. x 40 ft. ground level office. The cost to rent the climate-controlled space from United Rentals would have been $9900 a year, plus a $350 delivery fee.
Councilwoman Debi Krause said that there are storage spaces near her home that would cost much less. When Piper asked whether required electricity was available in those spaces, Krause stated that she did not know. Council voted to hold a special-called meeting on May 24 to make a decision regarding renting the new storage space.
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