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Sunday February 7th, 2016 10:11AM

Demorest fires city attorney, hires replacement

By Rob Moore Reporter
DEMOREST - The City of Demorest has a new city attorney, following a split vote Tuesday night.

Mayor Rick Austin said Tuesday night the council voted 3-2 to hire Joseph "Joey" Homans of Fox, Chandler, Homans, Hicks and McKinnon in Gainesville to serve as the city attorney at a $150-per-hour flat rate with no retainer.

Councilman Sean Moore made the motion to hire Homans. His motion was seconded by Councilman John Popham. Moore and Popham voted in favor, while Councilman Donnie Bennett and Councilman Jerry Harkness voted against.

Because there was a 2-2 vote, Austin chose to exercise his tie-breaking power to hire Homans, effective immediately.

Austin said government law is all Homans does, and that he has served as Dawson County attorney since 1997.

That split vote followed a failed split vote, in which Bennett motioned and Harkness seconded re-hiring Dana Maine of Freeman Mathis and Gary LLP in Atlanta, who had served as city attorney up until Tuesday.

Bennett and Harkness voted in favor, while Popham and Moore voted against. The motion died for lack of a tie-breaking vote.

Austin commended Maine for the work she has done for the city.

"I am very appreciative of her service," Austin said.

Maine's firm was paid $3,500 per month retainer, which covered all general labor. If additional services were performed (bond writing or litigation), the fee was $200 per hour. Austin said he believes the city is basically current on any fees owed.

Also during Tuesday night's meeting, the council:

* Reappointed Sammy Smith of Rainmaker & Associates for city public relations and grant writing;

* Reappointed Ben Turnipseed as city engineer; and

* Reappointed Phil Gruber (individually) as code inspector for the city.

The personnel actions followed nearly an hour of closed session for the mayor and council.
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