Accusations fly and tears flow at Kennesaw Council meeting
by Megan Thornton
June 27, 2013 12:25 AM | 9398 views | 17 17 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this photo from the MDJ files, Suzanne Thrash was emotional when she was presented the Patriot Guard’s Condolence Book and challenge coin at a memorial service for her late husband, former Kennesaw City Councilman Bill Thrash..<br>MDJ File Photo/Todd Hull
In this photo from the MDJ files, Suzanne Thrash was emotional when she was presented the Patriot Guard’s Condolence Book and challenge coin at a memorial service for her late husband, former Kennesaw City Councilman Bill Thrash..
MDJ File Photo/Todd Hull
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KENNESAW — Despite the dying wish of the late Kennesaw City Councilman Bill Thrash, Mayor Mark Mathews cast the deciding vote to have a Kennesaw Development Authority member serve out the remainder of Thrash’s term, not Thrash’s widow.

Before he died of cancer in May, Thrash said he wanted his wife, Suzanne Thrash, to serve out the end of his term this year, a request she had agreed to do to continue her husband’s vision for the city.

But during a highly emotional Tuesday night meeting filled with tears and bitter accusations, Mathews and council members Tim Killingsworth and Jeff Duckett voted for Matthew Riedemann to serve in the seat until the Nov. 5 election.

Suzanne Thrash left the meeting early, apparently well aware that Mathews, Killingsworth and Duckett had no intention of fulfilling her late husband’s wish. She returned only to ask for her late husband’s nameplate and photograph.

Neither Mathews, Killingsworth nor Duckett gave reasons as to why they did not want Suzanne Thrash, an active volunteer with the city’s teen center named for her late husband, to serve out the year’s term.

“I am disgusted,” Suzanne Thrash said to the council as she walked out of the meeting.

Outside, the Kennesaw Mountain High School teacher said she believes the vote was a conspiracy.

“It’s ridiculous,” Suzanne Thrash said as she left with her daughter, Mandi. “My husband at least was honorable. He did not lie … My husband died less than a month ago. This is what Bill wanted. It’s such a circus. That was a kangaroo court in there. ”

She and Riedemann put their names in the hat for the open seat, along with eight others, prior to the June 7 deadline for consideration. Per the city’s charter, the council is allowed to vote to fill the seat of a vacated council member if he/she dies within six months prior to the seat being up for election again.

After two other candidates addressed the council, Suzanne Thrash made clear she already knew the vote wouldn’t swing in her favor.

“I guess my feeling is I’m very disappointed,” she told the council. “I’ve already talked to the mayor. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. We were supposed to be able to talk things out and discuss and see what my thoughts were, my plans were. And you (addressing Killingsworth, Duckett and Mathews) never talked to me to see how I was going to vote or how I’m going to react to something. I wasn’t even given a fair shot. Is it because I’m just a woman, is that it? Is it because I have my own brain and I think? Is that why? I’m very disappointed in this council. You didn’t even give me a fair shot — the people who claim Bill was a very dear friend. Very disappointed.”

Councilman Bruce Jenkins began the discussion with a nomination for Suzanne Thrash, which was seconded by Councilwoman Cris Welsh.

Welsh explained to the council that she had a conversation with Bill Thrash prior to his death, where he told her he preferred to have his wife serve out the remainder of the year to avoid creating “a three-ring circus in our community.”

“I don’t feel like putting (Suzanne Thrash) in there is filling a warm seat,” Welsh said. “I feel like it’s just the closest thing we can get to Bill’s voice.”

Welsh also believed it would be a disservice to the community to have nothing less than a unanimous vote to fill the open seat.

“Bill was a consensus-builder,” Welsh said. “To have us not be unanimous is absolutely wrong.”

The vote for Thrash was 2-3, with Killingsworth, Duckett and Mathews opposed.

Killingsworth, an ally of the mayor, then nominated Riedemann, saying he “has a desire to serve and an ability to address issues.”

“Certainly, I think Mrs. Thrash has those abilities and I certainly don’t discount her because she is a woman,” Killingsworth said, adding he took issue with Suzanne Thrash’s accusation. “I have three of them at my house. And I certainly wouldn’t discount her because she has a brain, because my daughter is really smart and so is my wife.”

Welsh said she had a problem with Riedemann living in Legacy Park, giving that neighborhood overrepresentation with Mathews, Duckett and — as she alleged — Killingsworth, to which he grew visibly irritated, saying he does not live there.

“Based on what you just said, you’re acting as if there is some sort of conspiracy going on,” Killingsworth said.

Welsh said she did believe the vote was a conspiracy, based on her observations.

“I’m looking you in the eye, taking my glasses off,” he said, as he stared at her from across the table. “Telling you there is no conspiracy, Mrs. Welsh.”

“It’s doctor,” she responded.

Jenkins brought the discussion back to Riedemann’s residence, saying there was truth to her argument and the move would amount to “stacking the deck” toward having too many elected officials from Legacy Park.

“I think we owe (residents) a reflection of the community,” Jenkins said. “Matt has served on the KDA well but I also look at the collection of the neighborhoods and it’s nice to have different points of view.”

Killingsworth disagreed, noting council members run at-large in Kennesaw.

Prior to Riedemann’s approval, Mathews responded to all the dissent with a creaky, weak voice, unlike his usual strong tone.

“It’s been a very difficult time for our friend, our colleague, our families, our city and our employees,” Mathews said slowly, taking a long pause to choke back tears. “And unfortunately... it has brought out a very, very ugly side of people in politics and a tremendous amount of irreparable damage (has been) done in the past two, three months. This (vote) has brought it to its lowest possible point.”

Mathews went on to say that Kennesaw is an incredible city.

“We have done some incredible work,” he said. “And we have some incredible things going on that are all at risk because of personalities, emotions. I am so proud to be able to confidently get up and say over and over again for the last five-and-a-half years that I have never served with a better group of people. But a few of you have really changed that. And a couple of you have single-handedly gone out and spread vicious rumors, vicious accusations and convinced people that things have been said that are so far-fetched, but yet because of your positions of perceived power and influence you’ve been able to convince them and change their feelings and change their attitudes over others. People that some considered friends. And I considered some of you friends for many years. But I have never been stabbed in the back as many times as I have been over the last two months. Ever. Flat-out, blatant, two-faced lies.”

Mathews then went into a topic with Jenkins that occurred over the weekend at the annual Georgia Municipal Association meeting in Savannah, calling Jenkins’ actions a “perfect example” of the alleged lies.

Jenkins stood by his actions, saying the mayor convinced one of the leaders of the organization to go against the candidate recommended by the Cobb Municipal Association.

The city attorney had to redirect the conversation back to the vote, with Welsh making a substitute motion to approve Jim Sebastian, a member of the Kennesaw Citizens Advisory Committee, to fill the council seat. The motion was seconded by Jenkins, but lost in the same 3-2 breakdown.

The original motion to approve Riedemann was approved, in the same breakdown, 3-2. He will serve in the role until the seat is up for re-election.

Riedemann, who did not address the council Wednesday night, said he hopes to sit down with Suzanne Thrash in the future and try to mend wounds.

“I would like to call her and listen to her thoughts and her visions for the city, as well as Bill’s,” he said. “And see if I can incorporate that in any way I can.”

Riedemann said he doesn’t expect to fill the late councilman’s shoes, but wants to do his best to help the city.

“It’s a difficult time in the city right now,” he said. “I’m just going to do the best I can.”

Comments
(17)
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Concerned citizen
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June 28, 2013
I think that it is horrible that some of our council members trash each other on their facebook pages. These officals should not be considered for re-election when their term is up. We need a group of council memebers that will work together for the good of the people of Kennesaw. We should not be privy to every disagreement the board has.Some council members need to grow up. I am not soley for any council member. I am for the good of the people of Kennesaw. I think it is a sady day when Mr. Thrash's legacy is brought down by this crap. He was a great man. He would not have liked any of this.
Grapevine 2
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July 11, 2013
I have heard that someone has filed State Ethic charges on the Mayor, I guess not on FB anymore now it will be in paper.
Why so angry?
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June 28, 2013
Seems like everyone there acted out of anger and their own personal plan for what should happen. Yes, on paper it sounds like the human thing to do to honor Mr. Thrash's wishes. But was his wife the right one for the position? I like what Mr. Riedemann said about his plan to sit with Mrs. Thrash and hear her husbands' ideas and vision for the city. Mr. Riedemann will do a fine job for the City of Kennesaw.

Now it is time for the family to heal.
Yeah Right
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July 02, 2013
His reason for not sitting down with Mr. Thrash before he died?
Should Be Ashamed
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June 27, 2013
I am outraged that the very people who I saw stand up at Bill Thrash's memorial service and claimed to care so very much about him and preserving his legacy would stoop to violating his final wishes. Suzie Thrash is a great teacher and a good person who would have voted how she thought Bill would have wanted for Kennesaw. This would have preserved the integrity of the counsel. Instead it has gone the other way and turned into KinderCare. Bill Thrash GAVE of himself all the time for Kennesaw and this is the payment he gets - shame.
the right thing to do in Kennesaw
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June 27, 2013
The elected official doesn't own the seat, the people do. In the unfortunate circumstance that an elected official passes with less than a year left that seat gets appointed to someone else. That seat also doesn't belong to the majority of a council or a mayor whom, based on human nature, would most likely prefer to select a like minded individual, it belongs to the people. The very same people who elected Bill because of his specific ideals, passions,and qualities. In my opinion it would have been in the best interest of these citizens that there be as much continuity in that seat as possible to fulfill out the remainder of that specific term. There was lack of open and transparent dialogue, the lack of a clear and defined protocol and a definite perception of shenanigans. I miss Bill already
John Moreau
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June 27, 2013
Kennesaw City Council and the Police Heirarchy are a pack of political hacks. They are threatened by competent people and conspire to get them out. Need proof, look at the police records of officers run off for minor infractions and their character assassinated.
appalled and ashamed
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June 27, 2013
that only Dr. Cris Welsh and Bruce Jenkins had the wisdom and kindness of spirit to do the OBVIOUSLY right thing....so ashamed of the others....thorougly ashamed!!!
Not so sure
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June 27, 2013
I don't especially like the idea that an elected representative "owns" the position and can appoint his successor. The position is not part of an estate which is distributed per the deceased's wishes.
Big Shanty Girl
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June 27, 2013
It's not a matter of right but a matter of decency. I am ashamed of my home town's mayor and council.
Just Wait
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June 27, 2013
What is wrong with the leadership in Kennesaw? Verbal jabs and innuendos about lying and back stabbing! Next up will be slap fighting and kicking. Grow up and LEAD!
Sad Day
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June 27, 2013
They should have allowed her to finish the 5 month term.
Gringo Bandito
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June 27, 2013
What's wrong with choosing a more qualified person for the job? Since when do elected officials get to choose their successor on their deathbed?
anonymous
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June 27, 2013
Yeah

Cause it was willed to her

Do Research
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June 27, 2013
She IS more qualified. Her credentials far outweigh the selection and she can't be manipulated. I do have one question, why did Mr. Riedemann wait until AFTER Mr. Thrash died to want to know his vision? He knew he was waiting for this seat and could have taken the time to speak with Mr. Thrash himself to fulfill the late Councilman's wishes. Really. I believe this shows he had no plans or vision for his service in this seat to begin with he simple saw an opportunity to grasp perceived power.
Precisely
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June 27, 2013
Spouses fill out their elected officials terms all the time. It's standard in councils, federal, state all over the country.
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