DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawsonville City Council voted 3-1 Monday (Feb. 4) to approve an amendment to the city charter that will increase the mayor’s salary from $600 to $1,000 per month starting in 2020.
Councilman Mark French, who has opposed the pay raise from the beginning, cast the dissenting vote.
Other changes to the city charter approved by last night’s vote include language to better describe how council members are to be elected following the addition of new posts and that they must live in their district for at least one year prior to being elected.
The provision in the amendment that would have increased council members salary from $500 to $600 was stricken before the vote was taken.
French’s motion to table a vote until after the state legislature passes or rejects it died for lack of a second.
Attorney Kevin Tallant, whose Cumming-based law firm Miles, Hansford and Tallant represents the City of Dawsonville, said, “I don’t believe it’s necessary to table it until after the legislature acts. I understand your request but I don’t see a legal impediment to you moving forward.”
To which French replied, “Just because something is legal doesn’t always mean it is the right thing to do.”
French voiced several objections to the amendment. He pointed to wording on the first page that states: “Whereas the charter of the City of Dawsonville has not been substantially revised since its passage in the Georgia Legislature since April 1996 …”
“That is not a true statement,” he said. “It was amended in Dec. ’17.”
Regarding the pay raise, he said, “I do not think this is justified. I do not support it and I will not vote for it.”
He also objected to Section 5.11e which calls for the creation of “four council member districts of approximately equal population.”
French said, “The districts have already been created so there is no need to recreate them. These districts were approved by this council at our June 4 regular meeting in 2018.”
Tallant expressed frustration at French’s objections. Three times, he seemed to scold him for not raising the objections earlier.
“First of all, I’ll say I am a little disappointed this is the third reading and second public hearing and this is the first time I’m hearing some of these things. I’m certain these things could have been brought up before.”
Later when Tallant said, “Again, that’s something that could have been brought up earlier if you had a concerns about it.”
French quickly shot back, “Anybody. It could have been brought up by anybody. Mr. Tallant, I suggest you not question my timing.”
“Understood,” Tallant responded.
There was also a tense exchange between French and Councilman Jacob Phillips when French wanted to know who proposed raising the mayor’s salary.
“On the record, I have talked to every one of the council members, including yourself and no elected official I know brought this up,” Phillips said.
“So how did it get there,” French asked. “I think when you’re spending the people’s money, you ought to be able to tell them how these things transpired.”
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