FOREST PARK — What was expected to be routine annual appointments turned out to be anything but during the city council’s first meeting of 2014.
Board members also debated hiring a lobbyist to represent the city during the 90-day legislative session, which starts Monday, although no decision was made.
The only exceptions to the routine appointments were that of City Clerk and Finance Officer Mike Blandenburg and Deputy City Clerk Regina Ivie.
Councilwoman Latresa Akins said she wants others to have the opportunity to apply for city attorney, solicitor and judges for municipal and environmental courts.
“I think we need to extend the period for 60 days and let others apply,” said Akins. “In the interest of transparency and fairness. It’s not fair to keep appointing the same people over and over.”
It was Akins who, in May, made the motion to fire then-city attorneys Robert Mack and Joe Harris. Akins said “change is good” and added that council members felt the attorneys represented the city manager but not the board.
The board then immediately hired Steve Fincher’s law firm.
Akins said she had no desire to replace the positions.
“I’m not saying we get rid of them,” she said. “I think we should give others the opportunity to apply.”
Dabouze Antoine voted against the motion and Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord said she opposed an extension.
“I think we need to just confirm them,” she said.
Hiring a lobbyist to represent the city in Atlanta was also hotly-debated with city officials not providing much information on the issue. In fact, resident Roy Lunsford seemed to know more about a possible salary than the board was willing to discuss.
“I understand you’ll be hiring a lobbyist at $8,000 a month on a one-year contract?” he said during the public comments portion between the 6 p.m. work session and 7 p.m. regular meeting. “There are people living in this city who don’t make close to $8,000 a month. We’ve got worn-out streets and sidewalks that need repair. You’re throwing money away on a lobbyist to flim-flam stuff to the legislature? I don’t think $8,000 a month is a good deal.”
Council members wouldn’t comment on the dollar amount but Mayor David Lockhart said he wasn’t sure that is accurate.
“We do have to be budget-conscious even when we have good ideas,” he said. “I’m not sure if that figure is accurate.”
Lunsford said that number is the one he’s familiar with in connection with the proposed lobbyist.
During the regular meeting Maudie McCord made the motion to consider a lobbyist but Lord and Tommy Smith disagreed.
“I think we need to take this idea to the county and the other cities because I don’t think we can afford this on our own,” said Lord. “It was discussed to share one. I don’t think by ourselves we need one.”
The next meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 21, because the third Monday is a holiday. The work sessions start at 6 p.m. and are followed by the regular session at 7 p.m.