By Kathy Jefcoats
McDONOUGH — A Henry County Superior Court judge denied an ninth-hour injunction Thursday that would have prevented Stockbridge City Council from an evening meeting to consider removing the embattled mayor from office.
Mayor Lee Stuart sought the temporary restraining order to keep the special called meeting from happening. However, Judge Arch McGarity ruled following an emergency hearing Thursday that the council could meet as planned, with a provision.
“I expect them to follow their charter,” he said.
The council hired an independent investigator, Chris Balch, in September to look into “voluminous documents” alleging wrongdoing by Stuart. Balch’s investigation is complete, he has been paid and he presented seven allegations against the mayor to the council, said City Attorney Bill Linkous.
Stuart’s attorney, Joe Cloud, said before the called meeting that he fully expected the council to vote to remove Stuart from office. However, Cloud said he wants the council to follow the city charter and take whatever action they decide to take legally. He said Stuart has done nothing wrong.
“We’ve contended from the beginning that there is nothing to their allegations,” said Cloud. “The investigator didn’t have the mayor’s side and they have to consider the mayor’s side of this. These charges are completely frivolous, it’s all political. They’re doing what they can to get him out of office.”
Prior to the Thursday evening meeting to consider the mayor’s ouster, Linkous said he didn’t know quite what to expect, adding, “I’ve never been one to say what someone else might do but I believe Council wants to make the changes necessary to start the process of removal.”
Once the vote is made to start that process, the council will have to set a public hearing before voting to remove Stuart. Cloud said if that happens, he will appeal the removal to Superior Court.
Stuart’s term in office ends November 2013.