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Register mayor resigns just months after election

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Posted: March 5, 2008 9:53 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    Just a few months after being elected, Register Mayor James Oates has resigned.
    The letter he sent Wednesday to the Register Town Council and town administrator Mandi Cody Pilz was brief: " Dear Town Council and Mrs. Pilz, Please accept this letter as my Notice of Resignation as Mayor of the Town of Register. This is to be effective immediately. Sincerely, James L. Oates."
    In a telephone conversation with the Statesboro Herald Wednesday, Oates said he only ran for mayor to defeat a liquor sales referendum that took place during the same election, and said he is resigning because he has no power as mayor.
    "I have no say-so. I can't vote, can't do anything," he said. "They (the Register town council) call the shots. I say I am going to veto (an issue) and they say they'll override it."
    Katie O'Grady, mayor pro tem who now serves as interim mayor until the March 11 Town Hall meeting, when she will be sworn in as mayor, said he council figured Oates resigned because of health issues concerning him and his wife, and that he never showed up for meetings anyway.
    As for Oates' comments regarding vetoes, "he signed all the resolutions he said he was going to veto," she said. "We don't really know (why he resigned). We haven't seen him."
    Oates said he is concerned about where money was spent during the time he was not mayor. He served as mayor several years ago before his election again in November.
    When votes were counted in that close election, almost every vote for Oates was a vote against the liquor referendum as well.
    He said when he left the town hall as mayor after his defeat by Betsy Millsap, he also left the town with "$53,000 in the bank."
    He said he thinks the town officials spent too much money on unnecessary things such as a city playground while  the water system needs upgrading. And when he took a woman he wanted to be the town's new accountant to the town hall to review city records, he said council members interfered.
    O'Grady said Oates wanted to review the town's records by himself, and the council "objected to the methodology" - meaning council members should have been present as well.
    Oates didn't feel that way.
    "It's my ball game now and I've been sworn in, and I think I need to know" what's going on with the town, he said.
    The town has no financial problems, she said, except " we don't have a whole lot of money, but we have no money missing and no money problems."
    In a separate letter to Pilz and the council Oates requested financial documents.
    The letter sent Wednesday, which Oates said followed a previous request, asked for Town of Register bank statements from the period of July 1 , 2007, to current; a " detailed financial statement for the Town of Register, including cash on hand, accounts receivable, and accounts payable, including the period of July 1, 2007 to current;" and the " amount of SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds received and spent for the last two years from today's date."
    O'Grady said Oates had been notified after his first request that the information he wanted was available at the town hall, but he never came to get them.
    Oates said two attorneys, which he would not name, advised him to resign" and get out.
    "I don't want to be involved if I don't have any say-so and in the end, the mayor is going to be blamed" for any problems, he said.
    He said O'Grady, as well as council members Laurie Pitts and Ryan Pilz, who is Mandi Cody Pilz' husband, sent him a letter asking for his resignation, but he had already decided to do so beforehand.
    O'Grady, who will be sworn in  March 11 as mayor, said they asked Oates to resign because he never showed up or meetings. He even insisted upon being sworn in separately and before other council members who won  the election.
    "We had to make a move," she said. "We were being held captive."
    Oates' resignation came as " a relief," she said. "We weren' t quite sure what was going to happen to James."
    Oates never showed up for the first council meeting after the election and when he did arrive at the second, he moved to adjourn before any business was discussed, she said.
    "He recognized right away that he had a council that would not bend to his will," she said.
    Historically, Oates has had numerous lively confrontations with council members regarding town issues and what powers the mayor held.
     
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