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Haddix, Imker clash; Split council slashes DAPC budget

A difference of opinion devolved into a brief shouting match Thursday night between Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix and City Councilman Eric Imker

in the middle of a council meeting.

Once all the verbal hysterics and other calm, reasoned discussion came to an end, council voted 3-2 to hire an economic development coordinator as a contract city employee with an estimated salary of about $50,000. This new employee would be part of the city’s Community Development department.

Council also voted 3-2 to cut the funding of the city’s development authority from $35,000 to zero, leaving it with roughly $15,000 in reserves to spend for the coming year. Imker said the authority can “exist” by spending as little as $7,500 a year.

Imker said the authority’s budget reduction will require it to come to city council for any funding above and beyond its remaining reserves.

The new hire and development authority budget cut were approved by council members Eric Imker, Kim Learnard and Vanessa Fleisch and opposed by Haddix and councilman Doug Sturbaum.

Imker contended the Haddix/Sturbaum proposal to increase the authority’s funding to $150,000 had far too much overhead built into its budget. He also said the authority, once given the $150,000, had the legal capability to spend that money however it chooses, and that’s a risk he was unwilling to take.

“I will not turn over huge lump sums of our tax dollars to an independent government agency that we have no control over and that may or may not use it for their intended primary mission,” Imker said.

A short time later, Sturbaum suggested that if council had a problem with the way the development authority was operating, it should give guidance to the authority. The 3-2 vote from council gave no such direction but gave the council direct power over all the authority’s budgetary matters.

“Don’t cut them, guide them,” Sturbaum suggested. “We were elected to be leaders of the community. Instead of sitting here arguing with one another and cat fighting, we need to put it behind us.”

Imker, during his presentation, said though there has been much talk about the DAPC attracting retail to the city, the city should be pleased that some 90 percent of its stores are occupied. Likewise Imker challenged the notion that there are too many vacancies in the city’s industrial park, which he said were down to nine buildings.

Then Imker went on a tirade questioning why the authority didn’t mail letters out in an attempt to lure some 19 potential companies to the city because they are suppliers to the under-construction Sany Corporation heavy equipment manufacturer due to open by the end of next year.

“That’s the development authority’s responsibility,” Imker said as he pounded his fist on the dais.

And that’s when Haddix interrupted Imker.

“You’re out of order, you’re done,” Haddix said, complaining that Imker was unfairly chiding city volunteers. None of the authority members are paid.

Imker later got in a few more words, contending that while he doesn’t intend any disrespect to the authority’s volunteers, “their mission needs a major overhaul.”

Imker said he wanted measurable goals for the authority to achieve, and he thinks the city will get that type of analysis from the newly-approved economic development coordinator.

The 3-2 council vote to hire the coordinator included a proviso that the employee’s budget will be determined by council after the employee is hired and can make a subsequent budget recommendation to council.

The clash between Imker and Haddix was the most contentious exchange between city elected officials in the past 10 years at least.

Both men put City Attorney Ted Meeker in the position of referee, as he had to settle whether Haddix had the power to hush Imker. Meeker confirmed that as chair of the meeting, Haddix had the power to withdraw “the floor” that had been given to Imker.

At the end of the meeting, Imker apologized for raising his voice during the heated exchange.

Haddix admitted fault too.

“I snapped a little bit too but you’re right, this is an issue, and it’s not personal,” Haddix said.



Robert W. Morgan's picture

First of all we hear from Brown, Logsdon and Haddix that it is illegal for the city to have direct control over economic development and industrial recruiting. We are told we must have an independent authority to do this. And of course we know that we can't use tourism dollars (hotel/motel tax) for economic development either. Then Haddix and Doug want to fund DAPC with $150k so we can get a first class staffer who will help attract industry. They tell us this is the only way. Everything else is illegal. The ladies objected, Imker wouldn't go with either side and nothing happened. Then the ladies propose a staffer reporting directly to council at $50k, Imker tumbles to that side and we now have a green light to hire a professional, albeit for an admin salary. And then, if I'm not mistaken, the council liason to DAPC (who is now unfunded mostly) is Doug - one of the no votes for hiring the staffer.

So, if I'm not mistaken by all of this, we now need to find an economic development professional willing to leave his or her current situation to work for $50k - not for the unfunded DAPC, but instead under the thumb of a city council - or specifically, this city council one of whom apparently thinks that economic development is about filling shopping center space, 2 of whom object to this position being created and the other 2 who have no real experience, but they did offer up this solution and it passed - sorry Mr. Haddix - 3 to 2.

The good news is that with 10% unemployment, there is probably an out of work professional that would be
willing to work cheap for a couple of years.

Live free or die!

Yeah, you are probably correct...with 10% unemployment, I'm sure there are some folks who would be willing to take this job just to have a job. But as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

But OMG, can you imagine taking a high profile job like this at $50,000 and reporting to a council comprised of egomaniacs , a clueless diva and hot heads none of whom have a clue about economic development and yet who will be setting your goals and objectives?

I'm sure as we sit here, the state staff at the GA Dept of Economic Development are shaking their heads and laughing at this motley crew and the conclusion they arrived at.

As for the legality of the arrangement, it will all depend on how the job description is written and the duties imparted to the person. Hiring an economic development person on city payroll is not illegal in and of itself, regardless of what is being said.

Speaking of, would love to sit in on those meetings when job description and goals/objectives are being formalized.

BTW, Sturbaum is the Tourism liasion not DAPC.

Haddix who pushed the DAPC hire is the liasion to DAPC. Hmmm....coincidence? I think not. as I said in another post, this is all about politics and control.

yellowjax1212's picture

Wow! I think I am now inspired to give up a large chunk of my personal time and volunteer for some kind of service to PTC. There are so many perks and you get so much support from the paid professionals.
Come on Mr. Imker, give us a break. You owe everyone who has been working on DAPC an apology. Shame on you for blaming volunteer citizens for empty business spaces PTC.
Hello! If you hadn't heard there is still an economic crisis going on. Not too many businesses starting up or making moves right now. They are just trying to keep their head above water.
But I guess that will all change now that you can hand pick your own Dir. of Economic Development. I will not wade into the legality issues - I would be led to believe that the last three Mayors had gotten good council from the City Attorney on this matter.
And Mr. Mayor - I know it is rare coming from me but Kudos for standing up for the folks who donated a great deal of time and effort on behalf of their desire to serve their city.

NUK_1's picture

While I agree with some of Imker's points, he was way overboard on criticism of people like Mark Holumns and others at DAPC that are truly volunteers, working thanklessly to try and improve PTC with little(now ZERO) funding. To back-hand them is just dumb. Imker needs to lose some of the testosterone.

yellowjax1212's picture

Would not surprise me to see a mass Exodus of all of the volunteers at DPAC.
Too bad, good people working hard to serve their community.

Hey, here's an idea! Let's have an all volunteer council and Mayor. that ought to save us a few bucks.

I agree....with these comments, Imker continues to show he is absolutely hands down the worst city council member in the history of this city. You want the best and brightest of our citizens volunteering for these boards, authorities and associations. But when you know you are gonna get publicly b****slapped by a sitting city council member, who in the world would want to give of their time and expertise back to the community? Outside of maybe Kim, this whole council is as dysfunctional a group of people as I've ever seen...egotistical, clueless, no leadership, no vision, nothing. Just anti-growth or development. Politics is about compromise whether we like it or not. And with the "my way or highway" attitude exhibited by Haddix, Sturbaum and Imker, we can expect more episodes like we witnessed last night.

A small correction. The council liaison to DAPC is Mayor Haddix, not Councilman Sturbaum. Although, from a post the other day, the Mayor said those liaisons rotate annually, if I read it correctly.

With this vote last night, there effectively is no DAPC. Listen to the video of the meeting last night. There was a mumbled comment by one of them about a meeting Wed. in that apparently there was a discussion of a no confidence vote in either DAPC or it's volunteer leader, or both. Also, this new position is a contract position only. The Mayor's point was that there is NO operating budget worked into this position at all. So, there will be a new city employee sitting at a desk, untrained, answering the phone, basically. The Mayor pointed out that when you add in the operating costs for this person, you have a figure closer to the 150k he proposed, not the 50k that was approved. This position reports to David Rast.

If you never listen to a video of any other meeting, this is the one to listen to. Keep your finger on the volume control at about the 2 hour mark.

yellowjax1212's picture

Did anyone check the overnight Nielson numbers?
This could all be a ploy to boost the web ratings

It was absolutely a slap in the face to the volunteer head of the DAPC.

That's what happens when you arrange secret meetings with Low Temp for Sturbaum and Haddix and go out of your way to keep the other council members (who were elected by the city) purposely in the dark. Meetings as far back as January 2010...secret one told the other three council members including the DAPC..they were probably told not to tell them....why??

Haddix/Sturbaum are trying to railroad coucil meetings by have secret sidebar meetings and intentially keeping the other 3 in the dark. They also refuse to engage with the other 3 in discussions on issues...

The new policy of the mayor and mayor pro tem is do it my way!

Last night it was voted that the economic coordinator position reporting to David Rast will be funded on a request basis plus a budget will be built.

Last night, Eric Imker identified many important points:
1-its not illegal to have such a position..per our lawyer..someone made that up and lied to the public
2-the $150,000 budget included state requirements to maintain a development authority as required by law which was about 20% of the entire budget...20% just to remain in business. It also included table tickets at the Fred for entertaining and a portion was also unidentified.

It was a BS budget for another useless authority...We are in a reccession and Haddix/Sturbaum want to add more quasi-government. Who in Washington does that remind you of?????

In the end Haddix/Sturbaum wanted it their way...their egos got in the way! The city will hire a professional, under contract for 1 year as a test, it will have a budget and controls on tha tbudget which the city can not do if its an authority and, there will performance matrixes that clearly have to be achieved. Stop listening to Haddix/Sturbaum.....

and be prepared for more 3 to 2 splits on council. Haddix has a pattern on 3/2 splits...ever wonder why? He doesn't communicate well, nig ego and spends his time onh this blog answering bloggers than meeting with people and working at city hall...don't believe me? Call city hall and ask for the mayor's schedule...he is never there and he will not meet with anyone who does agree with him. That's nuts!

I expect better, but not sure why.

I do see where they banned golf cart parking exactly where Imker ran his campaign from out in front of the library. They should have added, this means you Imker.

Haddix, you must stay above the fray...

Based on Mayor Haddix's frequent assertions that having staff handle economic develop is illegal, I would assume that the trio that voted to 'hire an economic development coordinator as a contract city employee' should be on the watch for officers of the law serving warrants for their arrest.

NUK_1's picture

Ya'll are misunderstanding this issue.

It is perfectly fine for the City to be like many other cities and hire and Economic Devel Dir. What is NOT legal is to then have that City-employed person over DPAC or any other independent authority. What the Council passed last night in regards to hiring an E.D. is fine. Whether it was the right route to take or whether it was prudent to slash DPAC to a zero budget are other issues.

Mr. Ted Meeker should keep a black and white striped shirt and a whistle handy for the next contentious council meeting.

the new PD biker should be positioned about halfway up Flat Creek Rd. to watch for funny goings on between those 2 neighborhoods for the near future.

Is that road in PTC? Where?

it was in Nova Scotia. But as I speak, it could have move to Tuvalu.

If the road is in the county and the cop is a PTC cop, which he is, then he won't do as you request!
Do you know anyone in the Sheriff's department? Or in Nova Scotia or Tuvalu?
I have been to Halifax! Strong beer there.

What is going on there on that road anyway? Maybe several would like to look?

I contacted Queen Elizabeth (Queen Of Tuvalu) and she knows nothing of it moving there!
Sounds like a good place to live--no one works, there is nothing to do except fish and sell government stamps. They live entirely from foreign aid.
The Peruvians sold most of them in the 1860s as slaves and they never returned. Bad dudes then those Peruvians!

Anyway it is supposed to become inhabitable pretty soon due to being covered all of the time with the ocean rising.
They have no cover for storms now and fear for their lives most of the time. No wonder they drive on the left of the road! With bicycles and carts.

I have just canceled my Natl. Geographic subscription. Keep up the good work.

NUK_1's picture

This happens with big ego's and campaign promises that are overboard and then you have the Mayor and his clone Sturbaum drawing a line in the sand about refusing to vote for any budget unless it has 150K to DPAC, etc. etc.

Some of Imker's ideas seemed pretty logical and reasonable to me, but no one wanted to consider cutting personnel costs so Imker's revenge was joining the two other newbies and getting a 1.25 millage increase since it "saves money long-term...forget what I said about no tax increases too."

Remember the 3-2 votes of the past on some issues? Looks like those days have returned and also appears that yet again Haddix-Sturbaum are the "2." Maybe try some better consensus-building, guys.

That a lot of Imker's ideas were treated like he wanted to outlaw motherhood and apple pie, I really wonder about this council. There seems to be a lot of ignoring of fiscal realities going on still.

I still do not understand why 1 of the smallest counties (out 250 +) needs both a county & city development office. Coweta is 2x as large, how do Newnan & the county work this out?

Per the 2009 Census figures...Coweta 127,111 and Fayette Co 106,788.

I'll also add that following Coweta's lead is not my idea of smart growth.

Don Haddix's picture

Newnan has a downtown development authority with a multiple times the budget DAPC had. The County has a development authority with a much larger budget than FCDA.

Valdosta has a coordinator with a budget of $89,000 who has no say over their DDA. They have a DDA with a budget of $108,000 and it own staff. The joint city/county development authority has a budget of about $800,000 with 4 staff members.

Clarke county is so small they have a combined county/city government, Athens-Clarke. Their authority director, our counties former development authority director, has a salary of $100.000 a year.

I am not trying to crank up the old debate as the vote is done. We will see what this coordinator does. This is just to try to answer your question. Nothing more. We move on.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

Coweta County has a county dev authority, convention/visitors bureau, airport authority and water authority just like Fayette. The city of Newnan also has pretty much the same departments as PTC. There is a Main Street program in Newnan whose focus is on the downtown Newnan area. Done a damn good job too!

The fact is you really dont need both authorities here.

The Fayette County Dev Authority is recognized at the state level as the main point of contact if a prospect is considering Fayette County. And since PTC has the only industrial park in the county, FCDA is going to show them potential properties/buildings in our industrial park. Unfortunately, there is just not much if any big business recruitment going on. Companies are hunkering down waiting to see what happens with the economy and how Obamacare is going to impact them.

However, DAPC could fill a role with retail and small business development since that's 98% of what is in PTC. Small business is the job generator in GA with about 70-80 percent of jobs created by small business. Since council didnt fund the Haddix/Sturbaum proposal, this should be the focus of the new city contract person.

Council and particularly Eric The Terrible doesnt seem to understand you cant put together a matrix that says "we expect you to have XX number of new companies relocate to PTC by the end of your contract". Just ain't realistic. Lot of reasons why a company does or does not relocate to any given community with most of those reasons outside that person's ability.

Haddix did raise a valid question about the operating budget of this staff person. Economic development if done properly takes lots 'o money for marketing, association fees, training, etc. Not sure if it will rise to the $150,000 level but will probably hit $100,000.

I pity the fool who takes that job!

Bob Lenox and his minions like Tom Farr, Bob Truitt, Jim Fulton, Doug Warner and Tate Godfrey so ruined the reputation of the DAPC that no one trusts them anymore.

It was a spoiled little boys club and no one else was allowed to play. I applied for the authority twice in the 1990's and was rejected both times even though I had more development experience than half the members.

The new people on the DAPC might be honest and law abiding citizens, but the stain from the previous bunch is still there. From what I've read it looks like the current DAPC guys were hiding information from some of the councilmen so made they aren't so sweet either.

Don Haddix's picture

Two city Staff members sat as advisers with one controlling the checkbook. Not to mention a Council Liaison, who was Steve Boone last year, who never hand anything but good things to say about the people.

Having applied for a DAPC position I assume you understand the legal limits and distinctions between a Coordinator and a DA as regards Council direct control. That was the real issue.

Here I am defending the people who were on DAPC only. They are a very honest group who always went overboard on being open.

We will see and evaluate how this approach works over time.

<cite><strong>Don Haddix
Peachtree City Mayor</strong></cite>

NUK_1's picture

Since you just smeared those present DAPC members, maybe you can point to what you "read," where you read it, and how they were "hiding information" from councilmembers.

With your winning personality and habit of posting BS here and never backing it up, I can see why they didn't let you into the club in the 1990s. That was one thing they did right.

I really don't think DAPC was hiding anything from council. I suspect they were certain the Haddix/Strubaum proposal was going to pass and were just a little lax in their prep work. Gotta remember too they are volunteers and all with real jobs. What Eric The Terrible did took a lot of time which he has since he's not working.

And I don't think the DAPC of days of yore have much impact either. That board's function was to manage the amphitheater and tennis center with a little econ development thrown in for good measure.

Sorry you weren't selected if you indeed had more experience...politics!

We all have ourselves to blame for this council. Sturbaum and Imker will come up for re-election next year, hopefully, good people will run and we can clean up this disfunctional council.


PTC Observer's picture

Mayor Haddix blew this one. If he had simply outlined goals for the new position he was proposing with some type of timeline for each, my guess is he could have convinced the citizens and the council. Simply put it isn't like it use to be in city government, the budget is too tight.

I would suggest again that now that we have a "coordinator", we put some goals on this person with some definite timelines for completion. These goals should be public. If goals are not achieved, then out they go. If they don't do this then all the council did Thursday night is create yet another institutionalized position for our city government.

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