UPDATED — Imker: No law prevents mayor’s pay cut

PTC Council votes 4-1 to take Haddix’s salary to recoup $10K cost of lawsuit; Haddix mulls suing city or resigning; read the letters

The hefty pay cut dealt to Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix by his fellow council members Thursday night is not prevented by any law, according to Councilman Eric Imker.

While Haddix didn’t say Monday if he would file a lawsuit to reinstate his full $750 a month salary, he also didn’t back off the concept of perhaps resigning from office.

“If they honestly think I’m bluffing, they’ve got a surprise coming for them, that’s all I can say,” Haddix said.

Council’s 4-1 vote, with Haddix against, reduced his pay to just under $75 a month as a way to recoup nearly $10,000 in legal bills that the city’s insurance company reimbursed Haddix for to cover a lawsuit filed against him as a private citizen. [Click the link following this story to view a pdf file of the correspondence mentioned.]

The lawsuit filed by former Mayor Harold Logsdon claimed that Haddix libeled him in an email to a city staffer by saying that Logsdon would attend council meetings “part drunk.” The dispute was settled in December when Haddix agreed to pay Logsdon $3,000 and author an apology.

City taxpayers indirectly paid for Haddix’s $9,969 in legal fees because the city’s insurance carrier, Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency, reversed its course earlier this year and declared that Haddix would be reimbursed for his expenditures.

That decision did not cost GIRMA. Instead, the city had to cut a check to GIRMA to cover the total expense because it did not surpass the city’s $25,000 deductible.

At the May 17 council meeting, Haddix was firm in his stance that he would not repay the city for the expenditure. Haddix said he deserved the legal coverage since the email he sent to the city staffer, which contained the questionable language, was done as part of his official duties as mayor.

Haddix did not notify any of his fellow council members that he was seeking reimbursement from GIRMA via three letters written at Haddix’s request by City Attorney Ted Meeker.

Logsdon has previously said he sued Haddix personally and not in his official capacity so taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the bill for Haddix’s legal defense.

As for why Imker on Thursday night didn’t explain the city’s legal standing for drastically reducing Haddix’s pay, Imker said he didn’t want to draw the matter out and “make this a spectacle.”

“The point was to recover the money for our budget. That was the goal and to do it in the most cost effective way possible,” Imker said. “... That was all we wanted, we wanted our money back from a guy who was unwilling to do the right thing as far as I am concerned.”

Imker said instead of taking the matter to court, it was taken care of with a simple “budget decision” that will be in effect for the final three months of the fiscal year, with plans to extend the salary cut over the next fiscal year.

Should Haddix decide to sue his fellow council members to try and reinstate his full salary, he will not be able to have a city-paid attorney because such an action would not be covered under the city’s indemnification clause, Imker noted. Presuming that the city would prevail in such a legal action, Imker said he would then ask council to pursue assessment of any incurred legal fees against Haddix as well.

There is established Georgia case law that says a government agency is not responsible for slanderous remarks made by an employee, Imker noted, citing a 2006 decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals in a case titled Tootle v. Cartee.

Imker said that research by City Attorney Ted Meeker showed that there is no case law or state law that keeps the city council from reducing the mayor’s salary.

“That’s the basis for us to be allowed to reduce the salary,” Imker said. “So there’s nothing illegal about it. If there was something illegal about it, we’d have state law, ordinances or case law that says that. Haddix has absolutely no claim to base his appeal on.”

Further, the city was merely seeking to recover the money for the taxpayers by accounting for an “unexpected expense,” Imker said.

“We made a budget adjustment to insure the taxpayers don’t have any millage rate impact,” Imker said.

Imker said in asking Haddix to resign, he has advocated for the mayor to resign after Jan. 1, 2013, which would avoid the need for a special election by having council members appoint a replacement mayor. Haddix has contended that if he resigns, his fellow council members will have to explain to the citizens the need for paying for a special election to fill the mayor’s seat.

Imker also defended Meeker’s actions in the case, saying that the city attorney “had no choice” but to author the letter that won the legal fees from GIRMA.

Imker explained that Meeker is required to keep city legal matters confidential any time advice or action is sought from him by any council member or the mayor. In this case, the mayor directed Meeker to write the letter, Imker said.

AttachmentSize
Haddix-letter to GMA.pdf1.38 MB
yellowjax1212
yellowjax1212's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/15/2007
Bluffing???

“If they honestly think I’m bluffing, they’ve got a surprise coming for them, that’s all I can say,” Haddix said.
Seriously? Don you have been bluffing your way through your entire term as Mayor.

mudcat
mudcat's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
OK, I read all the letters and lawyer bills

Pretty boring really. I must say Mr. Mrosek is really good at billing.

I have 1 simple question. It is obvious from the pile of paperwork that the $3,000 penalty for libel paid to former mayor Logsdon was included in this questionable payment of almost $10,000. How in the world does anyone think the city and the taxpayers should pay for that? The legal fees I can see how someone could create a grey area and scam the city and get away with it, but the $3,000 was a penalty. It is like a fine or a traffic ticket. How can the city be responsible for that? He libels someone, admits it, sort of apologies for it, too late apparently. And then he pays a penalty for it. And that is the city's fault?

And isn't Lawyer Meeker guilty of malpractice by asking for reimbursement of that $3,000 penalty by shading his last letter to give the reader the impression that it is all legal fees? And then the same question, in light of the Tootie and Cartee case law? I do think the operative phrase here is the lawyer knew or should have known what the law is. I sure would want my lawyer to know the law. Wait! You are my lawyer, I'm a taxpayer and I live in the city. This really smells bad and I would have expected the city attorney to make a bigger deal about it in front of council instead of quietly writing letter after letter making improper and possibly illegal requests for Haddix? I think we all believe he represents the city - not the mayor individually.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
Good question, mudcat. The $3,000 is not for legal fees

Here's the exact wording from Meeker in the mystery letter that got Haddix reimbursed:

"The Mayor was ultimately forced to hire his own counsel and defended the matter. In total, the Mayor spent the sum of $9,969.40 in his defense and resolution of the case.
----------- (and later in the same letter) -----------------------------
The Mayor is requesting that he be reimbursed for the expenses he iincurred in defending himself in the litigation brought my (Sic) Mr. Logsdon.".

First sentence he stated the mayor spent $9,969.40 on DEFENSE AND RESOLUTION, which is 100% correct.

Second sentence he requested that the mayor be reimbursed for THE EXPENSES HE INCURRED, which presumably would be just the legal fees or $3,000 less.

Really pretty clever on Meeker's part (don't think for a minute Haddix has the intellect to even understand all this much less put it into play) to not mention a specific dollar amount that he was requesting for reimbursement - again, the exact wording FOR THE EXPENSES HE INCURRED. That way if George was sharp enough to catch the fact that the $3,000 was for RESOLUTION instead of fees, Meeker could say "Yes, that's right, that's all we are requesting" or just keep silent and hope George would gloss over it and reimburse the full amount. And therein may lie the answer to the question about how this was handled. If Haddix asked council for the full amount they would certainly differentiate between the two different things, as well as rejecting the whole thing, but good old George just looked the other way and signed off on it.

Either there was some confusion about the definitions of legal fees and settlement payments or resolutions or there was some deception involved in the Meeker letter. Either way this George dude at GIRMA seems to have handled his part of this whole thing in a pretty casual way. Hope he testifies at the trial. Maybe we can ask him if he deserves his big quasi-government salary.

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
MEEKER / GIRMA

Perhaps these are the guys you should be questioning.

madmike
madmike's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/04/2006
Meeker did his job

I have been following this pretty closely and reviewed the relatively intense questioning of the city attorney on the matter a couple of council meetings ago. Meeker just did his job and IMHO did it very well considering the circumstances.
GIRMA twice denied the claim but on the third request, gave in and approved. Not sure what changed between the first two requests and the third, but since no money was going to come out of their pocket anyway (i.e. city had to reimburse them for their reimbursement payment to Haddix since it was below the deductible) then not sure why they cared either way... except perhaps in setting precedence.

borntorun
borntorun's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/28/2005
Not So Fast madmike

At the time Meeker authored the third letter to GIRMA, there were two previous GIRMA determinations that this was a personal matter between Donnie and the former mayor and not official city business. That being the case, what was Donnie's justification to request the city attorney Meeker to author a third request and what was Meeker's justification to do so especially since he apparently had advised Donnie from the outset that it was his opinion that the lawsuit was a personal matter and not city business? I don't believe the city attorney should be handling a matter that at the time was ruled a personal matter and then billing the city for his time and expenses. And I get the feeling from Imker's tone of questioning of Meeker a couple of council meetings ago that he may be having some of the same reservations. Could the next step council takes is asking for Meeker to reimburse city monies paid to him? Lawd....if John Grisham writes his next book about this mess, I want a piece of the action when the movie is made!

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
MEEKER / GIRMA

Perhaps these are the guys you should be questioning.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
Third letter explanation

Pretty simple really. Meeker sent the first two request to a GIRMA person named Ken in Tucker Those requests appear to be for help from a GIRMA attorney. The third request was sent to George at a different GIRMA office and it was an after-the-fact request for reimbursement. A bit misleading saying Haddix is convinced of his "official duties" status and the letter is silent about council support or even knowledge - but that's picking nits. Meeker is completely covered because he included the correspondence to and from the Ken person.

Probably George should have been a bit sharper by asking if these duties were "official" could he see something from city council that makes it so. And it is a complete mystery to me why he and his agency participated in a money laundering scheme to reimburse Haddix when he could have simply said - "it is below the deductible amount, Haddix can get reimbursed by the city". I guess it was late in the day and George had to focus on getting home and didn't want to be writing letters or e-mails. Just approve the payment and leave.

It is pretty easy to see that Meeker wrote these letters just to keep Haddix off his back, but one or both of them must have known that city council would not have reimbursed him directly, therefore the subterfuge of making it look like a normal payment to GIRMA and hiding it in an unrelated package of expenditures. Somehow I doubt that was done without someone on staff participating. City Manager maybe? Finance Director? Accounts Payable person? Sure hope the involved staff member is called as a witness when Haddix sues the city for his docked pay.

madmike
madmike's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/04/2006
I think Meeker Did All He Could Do

Dead one and Born to Run:

When Meeker told Haddix that, in his legal opinion, this was a personal matter and not subject to reimbursement I am sure the Mayor insisted he file it anyway to see what GIRMA would rule. Each time GIRMA rejected the claim, Haddix certainly insisted that Meeker file it again with some purported "new" information. At this point, Meeker was simply following direction from the Mayor of the city he represents... what else was he to do?
It would have been great if Meeker would have brought these shenanigans to the attention of the rest of council, but indeed once the conversations took place, they were subject to attorney/client privilege and violation could land him in a boat load of trouble, including losing his license to practice. Whether he agreed with what the Mayor was doing or not, short of the activity being illegal, Meeker's hands were tied... he had to follow the direction the Mayor was giving.
By nature, the city attorney should remain neutral, at least in practice, in political matters. In that regard, I see the position as being one of reactionary rather than proactive. The Mayor asked for his legal opinion and Meeker gave it to him... the Mayor chose to go in a different direction anyway and there is nothing Meeker could have done to stop that within the scope of his position. What motive would he have to do anything else?

borntorun
borntorun's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/28/2005
Here's An Option madmike

Remember Elliott Richardson who resigned as US Attorney General rather than fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox as ordered to by President Nixon? You know...sometimes you just have to do the right thing and say "no sir, I can't do that". And giving Meeker the benefit of the doubt as far as the original filing goes, once the initial ruling came back from GIRMA that it was a personal matter, IMHO, Meeker should have advised Donnie that it would be inappropriate for him as city attorney to represent him any further with the matter and advise him to seek personal legal representation. Look, I understand the pressure Meeker may have felt with Donnie telling him to file the reimbursement requests. In his mind, failure to do so might have cost him his job. But I don't think that would have happened. I think once he would have brought this to the attention of the other council members, they would have had his back. As for attorney/client privileges, if he was acting as Donnie's attorney in a personal matter, yes it would be a concern. But if he was acting in his capacity as city attorney, I don't think attorney/client privileges apply since it was "city business". It can't be both! But regardless, the whole thing just doesn't pass the smell test and I don't think we've heard the last word from council about this.

madmike
madmike's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/04/2006
BTR... points well made

and well taken. Perhaps in retrospect Meeker would have done something differently. I don't know. My main point is that I do believe that Meeker did what he thought was right, and what was legally required, at the time under some difficult circumstances. Let's not shoot the messenger for the message. BTW, I do know that attorney/client privilege is in play as it was invoked several times during that council session in the matter.

I agree there is more to come!

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
Agree: Ted Meeker isn't the issue here

Don't throw Meeker under the bus on this.

I've read through all the posted info and he was doing the job as City Attorney without bias and without overreach on behalf on anyone. The first two "rejections" seem to be more along the lines of general probing and the 3rd(approved) seemed along the lines of requesting a formal up/down decision.

I think it's also important to note that nothing in PTC's contract with GIRMA requires PTC to use a GIRMA attorney or to notify them in advance when claims may arise like this. An elected official is entitled to hire his own representation and not GIRMA's. Now, do I think that was Haddix was right here, hell no. I'm just stating that he wasn't ever required to do otherwise when he hired Mrosek and GIRMA does pay claims whether you use their own attorneys or ones you hire yourself.

borntorun
borntorun's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/28/2005
Not Throwing Anyone Under The Bus NUK

I don't personally know Meeker but I think he represents the city very well as city attorney. From what I've seen in his dealings with the city, I think he is as honest as the day is long and I'm not questioning his integrity at all. However, maybe in hindsight with this particular situation, since it was his opinion from the get go that the lawsuit between Donnie and the former mayor was a personal matter, it was not appropriate to get involved and then bill the city for his time. Maybe it was and if so then so be it but it just doesn't pass the smell test. I can certainly understand he may have felt like he was caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place with Bossman Donnie asking him to author the reimbursement requests. I have to also disagree with your presumption that the first two rejections were "general probings". They clearly were requests for reimbursement and the only reason for the third request was the first two failed to get a thumbs up from GIRMA for the reimbursment. I do agree with your last paragraph. However, maybe I missed it but I haven't seen anyone make the argument that Donnie should have used a GIRMA attorney. Regardless, this whole episode is a sad moment in this city's history and the damage inflicted on the reputation of PTC will be felt for some time.

NUK_1
NUK_1's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/17/2007
borntorun: I don't think u are on a witch hunt either

I just think the general consensus is becoming more of a blame-game than the real obvious: this is 100% on Don Haddix alone. What council did with his salary, what Ted Meeker did or didn't do,some earlier questioning why Haddix didn't use a GIRMA attorney, how Cal Beverly feels about it, etc.......all a bunch of smoke and mirrors that distracts attention from what Don Haddix himself solely did in this case, and many episodes prior.

borntorun
borntorun's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/28/2005
Absolutely NUK!

On that we agree my friend. While I think there were several bad or inappropriate decisions in this whole calamity, the bottom line is if Donnie had just done the right thing to begin with, none of this would have happened and people would not have been put in awkward or controversial positions to begin with. Maybe Donnie who appears to be seriously afflicted with megalomania is getting his comeuppance as a result of the way he has treated a lot of city staff and volunteers. You know.....karma.

madmike
madmike's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/04/2006
Nuk, can I get an...

Amen. BTR brings up appropriate and fair questions, but you hit the nail on the head. It is all a distraction from the real problem.

borntorun
borntorun's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/28/2005
Question for RWM

You said Meeker sent the first two requests sent to GIRMA. Did you mean Mrosek? Thanks.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
No, I meant what I said Meeker and GIRMA

Read the link at the end of the story. It is hard to sort out, but if you look at dates of letters and e-mails it can be figured out. Meeker made the first 2 requests via. e-mail of guy named Ken Swanson at the GIRMA office in Tucker and the responses made it clear that Ken at GIRMA thought it was a personal matter, not a city matter. The third letter went to someone named George at a different GIRMA office and I think the reason for that was for someone (Meeker, Haddix) to hope that George would sign off on what appeared to be a routine reimbursement without checking the background documents too carefully.

And why Meeker continued to work on what he knew was a personal matter for Haddix after Ken made GIRMA's position clear is a matter of some concern.

I really want Haddix to sue the city for his back pay. He would have to resign first to do this and then we would get to hear from him and Meeker and Logsdon and even Sam and George under oath. Doesn't get much better than that.

borntorun
borntorun's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/28/2005
Thanks, RWM

Thanks for the clarification. So Meeker authored all three requests and billed the city even though he advised Donnie that it was his opinion it was a personal matter?? Wow...I think most assumed Mrosek was the author of the first two. It's like peeling an onion. Each layer peeled gets puts out a stronger odor. Yep....I want a piece of action when the movie is made.

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY SURE A CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED

You good ole boys kill me. If all your specs are correct pitch in like some of you suggested before and hire an attorney, in your claim ask that attorney fees be paid back.

I thought women were the worse, nope you boys "blow hard" with what you state as facts but are just stirring the gossip pot a little harder.

Even worse after you state you know it all, ya gotta start with the jokes. Go get a beer "shoot the crap" in the bar, but if you are really serious rather that using this forum for a "bitch" release, pull up your pants and take action.

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2007
Pumpkin - Want

Want to contribute? Let us know.

More later.

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
NOPE

Leave the guy alone unless you're going to put your money where your mouth is. That's what I have always said.

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2007
Pumpkin

I agree.

One of those principle things again.

More later.

pumpkin
pumpkin's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/19/2009
NOPE

Leave the guy alone unless you're going to put your money where your mouth is. That's what I have always said.

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
Why don't we assign a special prosecutor? Then do a movie

It would sure give the movie plot a big boost. I nominate Jim Webb, Doug Warner would be fine as well.
Or we could go celebrity judge - Pascal English. He can also play himself in the movie. He looks like a special prosecutor.

This George fellow at GIRMA that I have written about above needs to be played by Don Knotts or someone like that. Or we could do a gender change, get a little sex into this movie somehow and make the GIRMA person Georgette. Whoever played Georgette Ingall on MTM would be fine. Paris Hilton too.

Don't know how to cast Meeker's part yet until we find out if he's a hero or something less.
I want Don Rickles playing Eric Imker. Or maybe Jack Nicholsen.

Christopher Walken needs to in it as well, just not sure where.

Maybe Dana Carvey as Haddix.

Zach Galifianakis needs a part too - maybe Cal?

madmike
madmike's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/04/2006
LOL RWM

I think I have a role for Danny Davito

Robert W. Morgan
Robert W. Morgan's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/26/2005
Cool Mike, works for me. How about Julia Roberts as Kimmy?

And maybe Alec Baldwin as Meeker if he turns up clean in this whole thing.