Tempers flare in Stockbridge over mayor's removal - CBS46 News

Tempers flare in Stockbridge over mayor's removal

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Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart

There were some tense moments Thursday night as Stockbridge City Council members voted to move forward with the process of possibly removing the city's mayor.

After adjournment, City Councilman Harold Cochran got into a shoving match with a man who supports Mayor Lee Stuart. A police officer removed the man from the council chamber.

"Get him out," said City Councilwoman Robin Buschman. "That's ridiculous. We're adults!"

"Why don't you act like an adult and a lady?" shouted a woman who also supports the mayor.

"You don't even know me," replied Buschman.

"We need to remove you," the woman shouted.

Moments later, the mayor argued face-to-face with City Councilman Richard Steinberg and others.

"He got in my wife's face and started making comments to her and wouldn't get out of her way and was pushing her around," said Steinberg. "So I'm going to file a complaint against the mayor now."

Hours earlier, Stuart appeared in a Henry County judge's courtroom with his attorney. They attempted but failed to get the judge to grant a temporary restraining order to prevent Stockbridge City Council members from kicking Stuart out of office.

Council members then called a special meeting.

Stuart presided over the meeting. The council voted 4-1 (with the mayor not voting) to move forward with the process that could remove Stuart from office, and they decided on the ground rules.

"All we want to do is review the information, have his attorney, our investigator go through the documents for the public," said city councilman Mark Alarcon. "We tried to work with him, negotiate with him, but it's his way or the highway. There is no variance."

"The City Council has no interest in finding out if there was any violation or not. They just want to remove the mayor from office because they don't like him," said Joseph Cloud, the mayor's attorney.

The council based their decision on attorney Chris Balch's recommendation to remove Stuart from office.

"You have a mayor who acts as though the rules don't apply to him," said Balch. "He acts as though he is still a brigade commander in the Army and acts as though he has the right, the duty to throw his weight around Stockbridge to get things done that he thinks are the right thing to do."

Balch presented the results from his investigation to council members at a special meeting on Monday. Balch said Stuart has not fulfilled his duties as mayor, and that he created a hostile work environment for city employees. Stuart has denied the allegations.

Stockbridge resident Brandi Hotan wants Stuart gone.

"I think he should be out of office with all the shenanigans he's pulled," said Hotan.

But Elisa Johnson thinks the city needs someone like Stuart, who took office after Rudy Kelley served as the city's mayor for 30 years.

"He is a new mayor. We had the same mayor for years and years. He has new ideas and he does different things," said Johnson. "A lot of the council members don't necessarily support him because they are still stuck in their old ideas of what should be and shouldn't be."

"The city was ran better when he wasn't in office," countered Hotan.

Kicking the mayor out of office will not happen immediately with Thursday night's vote.

Council now has 10 days to schedule an investigative hearing similar to a court proceeding.

"It will be trial like in its proceedings. There will be presentation of evidence and the receipt of documentary evidence. The mayor will have the opportunity to cross examine witnesses and have an opportunity to call witnesses on his own behalf," said Balch.

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