PTC Council to take mayor’s pay to repay Haddix’s $10K legal bill?
In a memo hand-signed by four Peachtree City Council members, the ground has been laid for the city to potentially recoup nearly $10,000 spent on legal fees to defend Mayor Don Haddix in a libel lawsuit.
“It is the recommendation of all four council members to consider salary adjustment of Mayor Donnie O. Haddix, effective July 1, 2012,” the memo states.
The two-sentence memo does not divulge how much of Haddix’s salary would be cut under such a proposal, and furthermore it contains no details of any case law or legal precedent for such a drastic action.
The vague proposal will be discussed at the end of Thursday night’s council meeting at City Hall, which starts at 7 p.m.
Haddix said Monday that he will oppose the matter in part because he doesn’t want a future majority of council to wield such a penalty against another mayor.
“That’s a big concern for me,” Haddix said. “... Regardless of what somebody feels on me taking or not taking the money, it was a legal insurance payment.”
Haddix was sued for libel personally, not in his capacity as mayor, by former Mayor Harold Logsdon over an email from Haddix to a city employee in which Haddix claimed that Logsdon showed up at 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.
The council recently directed Meeker to write a second letter to GIRMA to have the city’s payment refunded on the basis that Haddix was not sued in his official capacity. It has also been noted that unlike lawsuits when the city is sued, Haddix got to choose his own personal attorney and he unilaterally negotiated the terms of the settlement without any input from council.
Council members have also said they never voted to pay Haddix to cover his legal bills in the matter.
As mayor, Haddix makes $9,000 a year and council members make $6,000; the positions are technically set up to pay $18,000 a year for mayor and $12,000 a year for council members as approved in 2007, but since then no council has funded those raises.
Haddix said he has not consulted an attorney yet, but he feels he has options and he also will make a statement about the matter at Thursday’s meeting. He added that if he hired an attorney, he felt the city council should be responsible for paying it because they are creating the issue.
In addition to a clear signal of council’s displeasure with the way the matter has been handled, the affair is also indicative of a growing rift between council and the mayor. Haddix said none of the council members approached him about this before having it put on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. The agenda was published by the city late Thursday afternoon.
“They haven’t contacted me at all and I didn’t see it until it was in the packet,” Haddix said Monday. “... If you go back and view the censure and everything else, and multiple times they have requested me to resign from council, multiple times. This is a political agenda. That is what it is.”
The Citizen attempted to contact Vice Mayor Eric Imker on the matter Monday afternoon but he did not return a phone call in time for The Citizen’s print deadline Tuesday.
Haddix said he plans to make a statement on the matter at Thursday’s council meeting about the matter.