Imker to go after mayor's pay for coming year as well
UPDATED — Four Peachtree City council members voted Thursday night to substantially dock the pay of Mayor Don Haddix to cover nearly $10,000 in legal fees he was reimbursed for a libel lawsuit that was filed against him personally and not in his official capacity as mayor.
On a 4-1 vote, with Haddix against, council approved a budget reduction in Haddix’s compensation for the remaining three months in this fiscal year. The action reduces his pay from $750 a month to just under $75.
Councilman Eric Imker, in an email to The Citizen, said he intends to extend that action for the entire upcoming fiscal year as well.
Haddix said he would not simply accept the reduction, but noted two other options available: to resign from office, or take legal action.
Haddix said if he were to resign, council members would have to justify the “large expenditure” for a special election to replace him.
As to the possibility of the matter ending up in court, Haddix said he felt it would cost both money and time.
Haddix noted that several council members have asked him to resign from office, and he noted that he has also been censured — formally reprimanded — by council previously in addition to being removed from his appointed position as a representative to the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable.
“Their obsession to ‘get me’ does not serve Peachtree City,” Haddix said, noting that the insurance payment to him was legal because the company providing the city’s risk management services does not cover private individuals.
Haddix was sued for libel personally, not in his capacity as mayor, by former Mayor Harold Logsdon over an email to a city employee in which Haddix claimed that Logsdon showed up to council meetings “part drunk.”
The lawsuit was settled in December for just under $10,000 and a written apology from Haddix. The settlement also called for Haddix to pay $3,000 to Logsdon.
To cover his legal fees in the case, Haddix directed City Attorney Ted Meeker to write a letter to the city’s risk reduction carier, the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Association. After twice denying the claim last year, GIRMA changed its mind upon a third letter this year, and cut a check directly to Haddix.
Because the $9,969.40 expenditure was under the city’s $25,000 deductible, the city had to cut a check to GIRMA to cover the expense.
Councilwoman Kim Learnard said the money spent on Haddix’s legal fees in the suit came without the citizens having any knowledge or say in the matter “and that is inherently wrong.”
“My job is to protect taxpayers,” Learnard said. “I never dreamed I would have to protect them from the mayor, but this is the situation that we find ourselves in tonight.”
Haddix responded that not everything that happens in the city has to be brought before the citizens.
Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said the action was not being taken for political retribution.
“It’s the difference between right and wrong and I think that citizens across the city know that and that is why we are doing this this evening,” Fleisch said.
Councilman George Dienhart noted that had Haddix returned the money, the matter would have been moot.
“We gave you every opportunity to make this right before we take this action,” Dienhart said.
Imker noted that the city’s increased legal fees in the matter have risen to over $12,000. Part of that increase is due to the city attorney writing a letter to GIRMA as council’s request in an attempt to recoup the funds as requested and other activities needed from the city attorney.
It has been noted that the legal matter was not handled like all others are for the city, which involves input from council in executive session and the city being represented by either City Attorney Ted Meeker or a lawyer hired by GIRMA. Instead, Haddix chose his own attorney and negotiated the outcome of the settlement himself, without consulting council.
GIRMA’s decision to refund Haddix came earlier this year, months after the lawsuit concluded with the settlement.