City Council votes to oust Stockbridge mayor

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STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. - The Stockbridge City Council voted to remove their mayor Monday in a 4 to 1 vote.

The investigative hearing into whether Mayor Lee Stuart should be kicked out of office started at 9 a.m. and continued until 9 p.m.

Councilman Alphonso Thomas was the only council member who voted against the other four members.

He told Channel 2’s Liz Artz he felt this was personal and it should be up to the residents of Stockbridge to vote out the mayor.

Stuart’s attorney called several character witnesses to the stand in the hearing.

Former and current city employees said Stuart created a hostile work environment and said inappropriate things.

“He referred to the current city clerk as that ‘fat lazy old hag’,” said Kathryn Gilbert, who is a former city council member.

Stockbridge Treasurer, David Milliron, said he witnessed the mayor bring some staff members to tears at times.

“He was shouting and waving the newsletter around. He was very angry,” explained  city employee Miranda Allen.

Stuart was cross-examined to see if the accusations were true that he tapped into employees' emails and released private information that lead to someone becoming a victim of identity theft.

“He repeatedly violated the City Charter,” said Chris Balch. Balch was hired by the city council to be an independent investigator. He recommended the council remove Stuart 10 days ago after he said he conducted more than 17 interviews and sorted through 2,000 pages of documents to reach that recommendation.

Stuart, his attorney Joe Cloud and his supports think the entire hearing was unfair.

“I don’t mind being investigated. I just don’t want to be running wide open,” said Mayor Stuart when asked by Balch what he thinks about the situation he is in.

Stuart’s attorney told the presiding hearing officer that the hearing violated local, state and federal laws since they were not given enough time to respond to Balch’s findings.

“I was only given the witness list 10 days prior to this hearing,” said attorney Joe Cloud.

Cloud called witness after witness asking the same questions.

"Did you ever feel the mayor created a hostile work environment?” Cloud asked former city clerk Vanessa Holiday.

 “No,” She responded

Several residents posed the question, “How can an independent investigator, hired by the city council, be independent and serve as a prosecutor during the investigative hearing?”

“They give him the witnesses, he then collates all the information with the recommendation that they (the City Council) wanted in their first place. It’s the ‘good old boy’ network,  cronyism, that we have been ruled by here in Stockbridge at least 34 years. I have never seen such a process like a tell-tale wagging the dog. The City Council wants the power and they want to get the mayor out,” explained longtime resident Marilyn Flynn.

The Mayor has already filed an appeal with The Henry County Superior Court. He said he believes in the juditial system and will be vindicated.

He will likely not act as Mayor until this is resolved.