Hoschton Mayor Theresa Kenerly is appealing a court’s decision to allow a recall effort against her to move forward. Kenerly’s attorneys filed an appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court on Oct. 25.
That action reportedly will not impact the timeline for recall organizers to collect signatures of 30-percent of registered voters within 30 days.
Kenerly came under fire earlier this year after a fellow council member Hope Weeks said Kenerly did not include the resume of a candidate for city administrator, Keith Henry, because he is black and she wasn’t sure the citizens were “ready for that.”
Kenerly and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Cleveland — who defended Kenerly and expressed his views against interracial relationships — faced fierce backlash from citizens. Over 40 ethics complaints were filed against both Kenerly and Cleveland and a number of citizens called for their resignations.
When that didn’t happen, a group of citizens organized to pursue a recall election. Both Kenerly and Cleveland challenged the effort in the Superior Court of Jackson County. During the Oct. 2 hearings on those challenges, Senior Judge David Sweat ruled that recall efforts could go forward.
Judge Sweat decided there were sufficient grounds on three claims against Kenerly, one of which said she may have considered race as a factor when hiring a city administrator.
But Kenerly’s appeal argues that claim is “based on a reprehensible mischaracterization” of her statement and that “The media, and the petitioner, misconstrued that statement as indicative of personal racism.”
The appeal also argues that Kenerly presented the council with the four candidates, including Henry. (According to testimony in the Oct. 2 hearing, Kenerly had presented the council with only three candidates for the position before her conversation with Weeks. Following that conversation, Henry’s resume was emailed to the council.)
Kenerly’s attorneys also note that Henry ultimately pulled his application — after accepting a job elsewhere — before a final hiring decision was made.
Additionally, Judge Sweat found sufficient grounds that Kenerly failed to oversee that an ethics commission was convened.
But the appeal argues that the town’s charter puts that responsibility on the mayor pro tem, not the mayor. It says that since Kenerly was the target of some of the ethics complaints, she recused herself and turned the issue over to the city attorney.
Lastly, Judge Sweat found sufficient grounds that Kenerly didn’t ensure the town sought competitive sealed bids for projects over $5,000. But the appeal indicates that is the responsibility of the town’s finance director, who reports to the entire city council.
While the ethics commission and bidding requirements fall to other city officials — the mayor pro tem and finance officer, respectively — the recall effort argued Hoschton has a “strong mayor” system and Kenerly is charged with overseeing all aspects of city government. Kenerly’s attorneys argue that’s an impossible standard to uphold.
“The mayor’s recall is based solely on the fact that she is the mayor with a duty to oversee everything,” the appeal said of the bidding requirements. “Under this unachievable standard, there is probable cause to remove every mayor when a city employee fails to perform his or her responsibility.
“Every mayor in this state is subject to recall daily based on this standard.”