Jeff Davis was sworn in as Ward 3 councilman on Sept. 23, bringing the Piedmont city council back to full strength with five members.
The agenda for Monday’s council meeting listed a recommendation by Mayor Valerie Thomerson for Davis to become the new Ward 3 councilman and it also asked for other council members to make their own suggestions for a possible appointment. But on Monday Thomerson said she was changing the agenda because Davis had been sworn in three days earlier.
“At the time the agenda was put together that was my thought and it wasn’t until after the agenda was posted that we realized everything was within place for me (to appoint Davis),” Thomerson said.
Ward 3 was left without a councilman following the resignation of Bill Sharp in July. Last month the council voted on a motion to appoint Davis, but the issue was tabled when two council members abstained from voting, claiming their abstentions left the council without a quorum. However, City Attorney Tom Ferguson said after researching the issue it was his determination that the abstaining votes were the same as no votes, meaning the council had tied at 2-2 with the mayor casting the tiebreaking vote last month.
The Gazette reviewed the audio recording of the August meeting and it shows that following the vote by the council on Davis’ appointment, Thomerson said she was voting in affirmation of Davis to break the tie.
“It was within my authority to do it,” Thomerson said about appointing Davis.
Davis, who has seven years experience on the council and most recently served last year, was vocal in his first meeting back and said he decided to accept the appointment because he wanted to help Piedmont move forward.
“(The council) was at a stalemate with a 2-2 vote and something needed to be done,” Davis said. “I have experience on here and I know how the city operates.”
Davis said he had also grown frustrated at the divisions that had taken place recently in the city.
“I hate to see a city our size in such turmoil, it just hardens me,” Davis said. “My desire is that we can have a peaceful city…and go forward. We have so many opportunities and I hope that my fellow councilmen will accept me as a councilman.”
While Davis said he was excited to join the council some members questioned the validity of his appointment. Vernon Woods and Larry Gage, who both abstained from voting last month, said they did not believe the mayor could follow through on the appointment of Davis.
“We need an election for this council position,” Gage said. “Otherwise you are dictating who (serves in Ward 3)”
Ferguson told the council that his legal opinion was that the mayor had the authority to appoint Davis to the council because she had cast the tie-breaking vote last month.
“I would like to remind everyone that I am the city attorney…I am not here as a judge,” Ferguson said. “I merely advise on legal issues that are raised.
“I have done an awful lot of research into this issue…the charter gives the vote to the mayor to break the tie. That’s my advice to you, you all make the decision that you want to make.”
Gage said every vote that Davis made would be “questionable” if his appointment was ever challenged in court.