Amy St. Pé, Gautier city attorney, resigned Monday, noting an obvious lack of support from the incoming City Council.
“We have been made aware that our contract will not be renewed by the new council,” St. Pé said. “I have enough respect for the new council that I wanted to clear the way for them to hire another attorney, but it’s very disheartening. The city was more than just a client to me.”
St. Pé was appointed in November 2007 by a unanimous vote of the current council.
“I was told that it was more of an economic decision than a performance one,” said St. Pé, who serves with the law firm Wilkinson, Williams, Kinard, Smith and Edwards.
She said that the Planning Commission meeting Thursday would be her last function as city attorney.
The new council will be sworn in next week. The event is set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Gautier Convention Center.
The membership consists of Tommy Fortenberry, mayor; Don Nash, councilman at large; and Councilmen Adam Colledge, Gordon Gollott, Hurley Ray Guillotte, Johnny Jones and Scott MacFarland. Guillotte is the only incumbent returning.
The city attorney position is one of three filled by council appointment. The others are city clerk and city manager.
Fortenberry said there was no reason for St. Pé to resign.
“We’re not even sworn into office yet,” the mayor-elect said. “We have not come to that decision, and if we did come to that decision it would be purely financial.”
But Fortenberry confirmed that all seven members of the incoming council attended an unsolicited meeting with a local law firm that made a pitch to handle the city’s legal business.
“And we have taken résumés, but they were also unsolicited,” Fortenberry said, refusing to name the firms. “Gautier is just one big rumor mill that spins out of control.”
Asked if he would have liked for St. Pé to remain, Fortenberry said, “I would like to see the position left alone at this time. Everyone knows how to be mayor but me. Everyone wants to jump on the train and ring the bell, but when it derails, it’s me that everyone will blame.
“I think she’s done a good job. Leaving may be the best for the firm, but I’m not sure it’s best for the city.”
Robert Wilkinson, a partner with Wilkinson, Williams, Kinard, Smith and Edwards, which the city hired to provide legal services and an attorney, said he was told that the new coun cil was already accepting applications from potential replacements.
“We’ve been told they’ve also done interviews,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said he’s proud of St. Pé’s work of the past
“Since we’ve been with the city, we’ve fired a city manager,” Wilkinson said of former City Manager Johnny Williams. Williams was terminated in March 2008 amid internal struggles. He was in the position four months.
Wilkinson cited the firing of former City Manager Don Pickard in 2005 as one of the current council’s main hurdles to overcome.
“That lawsuit cost taxpayers several thousands of dollars,” Wilkinson said. “When Johnny Williams was terminated, there was no lawsuit, and I credit the way Amy handled the entire situation for that outcome. Everything she did was presented to the council legally and correctly. It cost the city no tax dollars.”