MORROW The Morrow’s City Council’s legal counsel has quit because of a growing split emerging in the town’s government, according to a copy of her resignation letter.
Attorney Laurel Henderson handed her resignation letter to council members, Mayor Joseph “J.B.” Burke and City Manager Jeff Eady after the council’s meeting Tuesday. The resignation goes into effect Dec. 31.
“Over the past year, it has become increasingly clear that the city is becoming increasingly fractionalized,” Henderson wrote. “I have made attempts, as many city attorneys do, to try to get each side to see the other’s point of view with an aim of being able to move toward common goals. Unfortunately, those efforts appear to have been perceived as favoritism by some toward the other.”
While Henderson’s resignation may seemingly come out of nowhere to the casual observer, it is not entirely unexpected. Her letter sheds new light on the infighting taking place among city officials. It also paints a picture of a municipal government which is acting without consideration of Georgia law.
“While nominally holding the title of city attorney, I have been routinely kept in the dark as to important legal issues while staff and some elected officials consulted outside counsel,” Henderson wrote.
Most recently, Henderson was not present when city council members Jeanell Bridges, Bob Huie, Larry Ferguson and Virlyn Slaton met behind closed doors for more than an hour to deal with a grievance against Burke Nov. 5. City insiders have said the council did not ask Henderson to attend the meeting.
Burke has reached out to Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson and the Georgia Municipal Association, seeking advice on the legality of the council’s actions in executive session.
Council members appear to have broken Georgia’s Open Meetings Act several times during that executive session, including potentially taking a vote to sanction Burke, possibly hearing evidence against him and not taking minutes as required by law. Members of the council have repeatedly denied doing anything illegal in the executive session.
“When we had our discussions as to functions of the city attorney around the first of the year, there was an agreement that if outside counsel were warranted, I would be the chief contact for any such person,” Henderson said. “There is no other way to ensure that you will have good representation by well-qualified people and that there is consistency in the advice given.
“My inability to know about issues of legal significance makes it impossible to perform the functions of this position.”
— Staff writer Kathy Jefcoats contributed to this report.