PTC closes legal pay loophole
The Peachtree City Council has added a safeguard so it won’t get a surprise legal bill like the one in May for Mayor Don Haddix, which caused such a stir that council docked his pay for five months before reversing course to avoid another lawsuit.
In May council learned that Haddix had convinced the city’s risk management carrier to cover the legal costs and settlement of a libel lawsuit lodged against him last year over a comment he made about former Mayor Harold Logsdon in an email to a city staffer. That company cut a check to Haddix for the cost of just under $10,000, but the city had to reimburse the company since it was under their deductible of $25,000.
To prevent being caught by surprise in the future, council Thursday night approved an ordinance that will give council an opportunity to vote on whether to fund any legal claim filed against an elected or appointed official. That vote is partly ceremonial however as such claims can still be submitted to the city’s risk management company or insurer even if the request is voted down by council.
The ordinance also requires that city funds be withheld for payment of legal claims until the notice of payment or a request for payment is first given to council or the city manager.
Councilwoman Kim Learnard said the proposal was crafted at the request of residents who wanted to make sure council “stays in the loop” on all legal claims.
Mayor Don Haddix, the lone vote against the new regulations, said it was a “pointless ordinance” because the risk management policy is written to cover every elected official. Haddix said he also thought it was counterproductive to bring up lawsuits for discussion by council during a public meeting.
Doing so would “enable the ability for another circus where opinions are political and not legal, which we went through,” Haddix said, adding that he agreed with provisions that required a notice be filed with council for legal claims.
Since the ordinance went further to require a vote from council, Haddix said he was voting against the measure.