Mayor slams Council
[Editor’s note: The following is a statement read by the mayor to the City Council Jan. 10. He provided a copy to news media.]
When the Council members voted to settle the legal actions against them they said they didn’t want to cost the taxpayers any more money even though they could have won. That is a false claim. They could not have won. To date, I have said nothing, waiting for the legal costs to be reported. Tonight, costs are in the packet and it is my turn to make a statement.
On page 26, on the Litigation Services page, you see a charge by Henderson and Hundley for $2,445.00 reported as being for Haddix vs. City Hall. I questioned Staff on this being the actual total of new changes on this issue, as it had to be higher. The records given to me show a much higher total.
From August through November Laurel Henderson billed the City for $5,517.12, all generated by the Council members from April, 2011, through November, 2012, the legal fees totaled $10,467.12. Add in the GIRMA restitution giving a grand total of $20,433.52
So, who is responsible for those expenses?
When the Council members found out about the lawsuit filed by Harold Logsdon against me, at the same time I found out, they declared me guilty of slander and libel and told the City Attorney I was not to be indemnified. They did so solely upon the word of Harold Logsdon, never asking anyone else who was party to matter about the truth of the accusation. A political decision, not a legal one.
As GIRMA later stated, that forced me to hire my own lawyer, which was a justifiable expense under my personal GIRMA coverage that I was fully entitled to. GIRMA also stated there was mishandling of the matter initially. They stated I should have had their representation from day one. That, contrary to the lawsuit, I did act as Mayor fully within the duties of my office.
Even with the ruling by GIRMA, the Council members continued to declare me guilty of slander and libel. They also added accusations of stealing for the taxpayers. They did so on the dais, in the newspapers and even on TV. They appealed to GIRMA to reverse their decision and take back the money, which GIRMA refused to do.
When I threatened legal action, if they reduced my salary, Councilman Imker said I didn’t have the money to sue them. The others backed him. They proceeded to reduce my salary, thinking I had no recourse against them.
But, I did hire a lawyer. They were legally threatened with a lawsuit for the salary. A second lawsuit was threatened for slander and liable. They settled and gave me back my salary and were forced to retract their accusations in the Settlement Agreement.
Bottom line here is if the Council members had backed the full and proper handling of this matter at the beginning, the Logsdon lawsuit would have gone away quickly and cheaply, because three foundational claims in the lawsuit would have been refuted on day one.
The lawsuit didn’t end out any kindness of the heart. There were facts laid on the table that caused the dismissal.
The Council members claimed I had to ask their permission to file with GIRMA. That was a false claim and admitted to in the Agenda Item on the ordinance requiring notification of Council of any lawsuit. No permission was ever needed.
The Council members claimed they had to authorize payment of a bill from GIRMA. Again, a false claim admitted to during the Agenda Item.
The Council members claimed they had to authorize reimbursement to me by GIRMA. Yet another false claim admitted to during the Agenda Item.
The Council members claimed they had the authority to reduce my salary via the Budget. And again, another false claim so proven by a court ordering a Fayette County judge’s salary, with back pay, be restored. The argument for taking his salary was the same as for taking mine.
The Council members claimed I committed libel and slander. In fact, they had libeled and slandered me over a two year period and had to retract their accusations in the Settlement Agreement.
The Council members claimed City indemnification could not be given for accusations of libel and slander. Yet, they gave themselves indemnification when accused of committing libel and slander.
The Council members claimed it required a Council vote to give indemnification. Yet, they gave themselves indemnification without a vote.
The Council members claimed it required a Council vote to hire a lawyer. Yet they hired a lawyer without a vote.
I was innocent of all charges. The Council members broke laws, made false legal claims and committed the very acts, benefiting themselves, they said it was illegal for me to do.
The cost for this whole circus is the responsibility of the Council members and no one else. If they had followed the law and done the right thing, this would have been over quickly in 2011.
That is my statement on this matter. After two years of accusations, it is my turn to set the record straight.
Don Haddix, mayor
Peachtree City, Ga.