PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (WTOC) - For the second time in as many months, Port Wentworth’s city council meeting didn’t happen.
Tuesday night the council didn’t have enough members to legally take any votes. The mayor believes two members are skipping the meetings to prevent official business.
It revolves around appointing two people to fill vacant seats on city council. The decision essentially determines who controls council.
Several people who live in Port Wentworth expressed frustration that once again, city council could not meet. Councilmen Thomas Barbee and Mark Stephens decided not to come Tuesday night.
“How do you get them to come to a meeting so you guys can conduct business? What do you do as mayor,” Mayor Gary Norton said to WTOC.
“Just ask them to please come and see what they’re doing to the city,” he replied.
The mayor believes Barbee and Stephens oppose the others who want to appoint someone to fill the open District 1 seat. It’s been open since early Jan. If they don’t appoint someone, state leaders get involved according to the city’s interim city administrator.
“I’m trying to stay out of the politics between them, and quite honestly it’s going to come down to the governor intervening," said Interim City Administrator Steve Davis. "There is state law that says if they don’t appoint within 45 days, that the governor shall appoint.”
There is also disagreement over Steve Davis’ hiring as interim city administrator. A four-member majority approved his hiring in Nov. of last year. Now, one of those four resigned. Another suddenly passed away.
He’s adamant that he nor members of council broke the law in the process.
“The fact that they’re still trying to say that my hiring was improper or illegal is really, if it was, I wouldn’t be here right now, and it would’ve been challenged and overturned in court," Davis said. “I have done nothing improper, nothing illegal, and really nothing unethical.”
The mayor hopes he can be the one to get everyone back to the table working together. The inability to meet stalls city business like approving permits, payments to contractors, and consideration for business expansion.
“We’re going to have a called meeting next week to try to get these people back to get their business passed, and we’ll see if they show up,” said Norton.
The mayor says the council will not fill Debbie Johnson’s seat for at least a month out of respect for her. They are taking applications for the seat.
We have reached out to Barbee and Stephens to get their perspective on the disagreement. We’ll keep you posted if we hear back.