Stockbridge mayor plans to fight removal in court

by: Craig Lucie Updated:

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STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. - The Stockbridge mayor and his attorney said the city council has no grounds for ousting him.

Channel 2's Craig Lucie spoke with Mayor Lee Stuart's attorney and the investigator who recommended that the mayor be removed from office Tuesday afternoon.

Lucie wanted to follow up on the story after Stuart was ousted Monday night, because residents kept telling him and Channel 2 Action News photographers that the investigative hearing was not fair.

Residents said they thought the hearing was very one-sided, but the investigator said the council made the right decision based on the evidence.

This is a case that could go to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

"How can four council members remove the mayor that the people have elected?," Lucie asked Chris Balch, the investigator who was hired by the Stockbridge City Council.

"The charter gives them that authority. The General Assembly creates the City of Stockbridge when they enact the charter as special local legislation," Balch answered.

After a day-long hearing and the council's decision to kick Stuart out of office, questions still loom about how the hearing was handled.

The Stockbridge City Council hired Balch to be an independent investigator, and then the prosecutor after he recommended the mayor be removed from office.

"If they want to throw stones at the process, they start throwing stones at me and that's kind of offensive," Balch said.

Residents gathered to show support for Stuart on Monday night and clapped for the only council member who voted to keep the mayor in office.

All along, they called the hearing the definition of a kangaroo court.

"I don't participate in kangaroo courts. That's not what I do," Balch told Lucie.

Stuart's attorney, Joe Cloud, called the hearing a different name and said it was unprecedented.

"It would probably be a show trial. We go through the motions of a trial, but the decision has already been made before we even put up evidence," Cloud explained.

Lucie asked him if he thought it was completely unfair and Cloud told him the investigative hearing was.

"I think it's unprecedented where you can have a situation where elected officials that are politically-opposed to another official are the ones who make a decision on an impeachment," said Cloud.

Balch told Lucie the laws of a courtroom were followed and the mayor acted as though the rules of the city charter didn't apply to him.

"Once you have somebody that acts like the rules don't apply to them, they need to go," Balch said.

The Stockbridge City Council plans to appoint Mayor Pro Tem Mark Alarcon to mayor and bring in another council member to fill the vacant spot.

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