WARNER ROBINS -- The sudden end to his tenure as city attorney came as a complete surprise, Jim Elliott said Tuesday.
“I would have thought that 26 years of experience would have entitled me to a heads up,” said Elliott, who served as the city’s only full-time attorney until City Council voted 4-2 on Monday not to renew his contract.
Council will meet again Wednesday at 10 a.m. for a special called meeting. Councilman Daron Lee, who was at City Hall on Tuesday, would not discuss the purpose of the meeting, only saying that it was regarding personnel issues.
“I know there is a meeting. I have nothing really to say at this moment on why we are having this meeting or the specifics,” Lee said.
Councilman Mike Daley, Paul Shealy and Bob Wilbanks, who, along with Lee, voted against renewing Elliott’s contract, did not return phone calls Tuesday.
Mayor Chuck Shaheen said Tuesday afternoon the city was without legal representation “and that’s something I’m trying to work through right now. We had a 9 a.m. meeting this morning concerning property that pertains to the (proposed) new law enforcement center.
“We could not have that meeting because the city has no lawyer. I couldn’t represent the city in a legal sense. I don’t have the paperwork, nor have any of us been involved this deeply in the negotiations,” Shaheen said. “At this point, I don’t know what we are going to do.”
The city has been attempting to close on the purchase of 11 parcels of property, worth about $800,000, along Watson Boulevard between First and Third streets. The property has been proposed as the site for a new law enforcement center.
Daley, Lee, Shealy and Wilbanks called Wednesday’s meeting, Shaheen said.
“They didn’t even tell me. I found out through the clerk’s office,” he said.
Meanwhile, Elliott said he doubts council will reverse its decision during Wednesday’s meeting. So Elliott, who began his career more than a quarter-century ago in the same position he was ousted from Monday, said he will take a break before deciding what comes next.
“With it being right after the holidays, it just feels like another day off,” Elliott said of his Tuesday away from City Hall, where his parking space sat empty and the blinds were closed on his glass office door.
Elliott graduated from Georgia Tech and Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. Just two years out of college, he became the city’s first -- and, to this point, only -- city attorney.
In December 2008, he attempted to end his stint in the position, asking the mayor and council not to renew his appointment in January. He served most of 2009 on a part-time basis while managing a private law firm.
He returned to full-time status in November 2009. The council at the time asked Elliott to help with the transition as Shaheen and three new councilmen came into office, Elliott said.
“I did it because of my love for the city,” he said.
Elliott said he bears no ill-will toward the four councilmen who voted him out.
“It’s hard to roll 26 years into a few words,” Elliott said of his tenure. “It’s been a good opportunity to be part of the growing of the community.”
Elliott said state statute requires cities to have an appointed attorney, but it doesn’t stipulate how long a city can go without one. As for who is next in line, Elliott said he has no idea.
“I didn’t know I wasn’t going to be (city attorney),” Elliott said, “so I don’t have any idea who the new person will be.”
To contact writer Shelby G. Spires, call 744-4494. To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.