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Learnard chides Haddix over blog comment

Peachtree City Councilwoman Kim Learnard took Mayor Don Haddix to task at Thursday night’s council meeting for a statement he made in a recent blog.

The dispute stems from a joint meeting between the Development Authority of Peachtree City and the city council days after Learnard and council members Eric Imker and Vanessa Fleisch voted to withdraw the authority’s $35,000 funding in the 2010-2011 budget.

Learnard said she wanted to make it clear that although Haddix and fellow councilman Doug Sturbaum had schedule conflicts with the date for the joint DAPC-Council meeting, the remainder of council didn’t proceed in an attempt to “leave them out” of the discussion.

Haddix said his comment in his blog simply said the meeting “could have been rescheduled” but did not say that any council member had indeed tried to reschedule the meeting.

Learnard noted that Haddix needed to attend two important meetings that same night including a regional transportation meeting, and she also knew that Sturbaum had several schedule conflicts that she didn’t envy, though she reached out to him to come for one hour if he thought he could swing it.

“It came down to Doug and I bailed out because we had reasons and the other three made the decision to proceed, that’s all I was saying,” Haddix said.

The Learnard-Imker-Fleisch trio also voted for the city to hire an economic development coordinator who would work with DAPC but be hired as a contract employee of the city as a member of the city’s community development department. Haddix and Sturbaum fought for the city to instead increase DAPC funding from $35,000 to $150,000 in part to allow DAPC to hire its own economic development coordinator.

Learnard also noted that Haddix has blogged that a legal opinion on the city hiring an economic development coordinator is being sought from the state. She questioned Haddix which agency’s counsel was sought, but Haddix refused to say.

Haddix instead that each individual council member is empowered to seek any legal information as they wish on their own and then bring results to the rest of council.

“That’s where that is,” Haddix said.

Fleisch piped up that an economic development meeting is being scheduled for all local governments in the county with the presentations made by Georgia Power, which has an economic development department of its own.

Fleisch also said the city needs to look at doing something to help the DAPC in its mission to help the city’s shopping centers at least through Christmas as the city waits to hire the economic development coordinator.

That program of helping retailers at the city’s shopping centers had been directed by volunteer DAPC member Grey Durham, who recently resigned after council defunded the authority.

The defunding of the authority also was notable because the move was not vetted in advance by city staff, instead sprung as a surprise, effectively preventing the public from having any input on the proposal.

Councilman Eric Imker previously has said the authority would be able to secure funding for some of its programs but they would have to secure approval from the city council first. Imker also said he didn’t trust the authority with the money because according to Georgia law the authority could choose to spend it however it wishes.

Imker has not accused the DAPC nor any of its individual members of mishandling money.

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