Council reprimands PTC mayor for negative comments
Allegation: criticism hurting business recruitment, city's reputation
On a 3-2 split, the Peachtree City Council Thursday night voted to formally reprimand Mayor Don Haddix in essence for embarrassing the city through a number of negative comments directed at city, county and state officials and employees.
A resolution to censure Haddix was approved by Councilmembers Eric Imker, Vanessa Fleisch and Kim Learnard. Voting against were Haddix and Councilman Doug Sturbaum.
While most residents who addressed council supported the censure, some argued that the entire council bears blame in the matter.
“I want to see some teamwork from this council,” said Laurie Farmer. “... This is why we elected you all as a team: to work together and that has not happened.”
Resident Bob Grove said some of the councilmembers appeared to have been hanging around the local set of “Drop Dead Diva” a bit too much based on all the drama that has transpired of late.
“The five of you had better get your act together,” Grove said. “All five of you can be removed just as fast as you were elected.”
Several other residents argued that council’s censure bid was ultimately stunting Haddix’s right to free speech. Imker, Fleisch and Learnard argued that Haddix’s negativity in blogs, letters to the editor and other comments was harming the city’s reputation.
Learnard at one point directly challenged Haddix to resolve the impasse.
“Don, are you mayor enough to tell us all it’s time to start working together in a positive manner, keeping it positive and putting only the best face of Peachtree City forward? Will you do that tonight please?” Learnard asked.
Haddix smiled, paused and replied: “Boy is that a loaded question.”
Shortly later, Haddix said that using barbed words like “liar” and “delusional,” both of which were used to describe him by his fellow councilmembers minutes before, was not a good way for council to move forward.
“You talk about a bucket of cold water on a conversation right off the bat,” Haddix said. “We can try to change that in the future, but that takes five of us to do that and let’s see if all five of us can actually change what we’ve been doing wrong.”
Learnard, in presenting her reasons for favoring the censure, claimed that Haddix’s negativity in blogs, letters to the editor and other communications cast the city in a negative light and hurts the city’s ability to recruit new companies here.
Fleisch argued that Haddix’s negative comments have affected employee morale in the city, which she noted has historically gotten by with fewer employees than other Georgia cities of similar size.
She said she is not sure that ideal can be maintained if the employees continue to fear “the potential for the mayor to put their name on the front page of the newspaper.”
Imker blamed Haddix for needlessly discrediting the Fayette County Development Authority in a letter to the newspaper. Imker argued that FCDA deserves credit for attracting industries to the city such as Sany, NCR and Cooper Lighting, not criticism lodged by Haddix.
Imker cited a letter he received from FCDA Chairman Randy Hayes that Haddix’s actions can be used by competitors to cast the city in a negative light. The implication was that the negativity could cost the city jobs.
Haddix pointed out that he has not been the only negative person on council in recent times. He noted that Imker “mocked me on the dais” during a recent budget hearing when Imker chastised him for focusing on the 2011-2012 budget year and putting little emphasis on future year budget projections. To drive home his point, Imker placed a large binder around his own head, claiming it simulated how Haddix chose to ignore the impact the current year budget had on future budgets.
Haddix also claimed that the censure resolution, added to the agenda the day before the July 21 meeting, was “created in secret and added to the agenda at the last minute.”
Haddix, accused in the censure of “creating an untenable work environment” for “publicly belittling and criticizing city employees” pointed to a controversial comment made about city employees in general by Imker at a budget meeting last year.
Haddix recalled that Imker said if city employees didn’t like his proposal to cut salaries “they could quit, after all there were 30 people in line waiting for each and every one of those jobs.”
Imker also has criticized his fellow councilmembers for “not having the courage or backbone to vote for his cuts,” Haddix said.
Following is the verbatim copy of the censure that was approved on the 3-2 council vote:
A RESOLUTION TO CENSURE MAYOR DONNIE OWEN HADDIX
AND TO CALL FOR CORRECTIVE ACTION IN ORDER TO BETTER PROTECT AND
SERVE THE CITIZENS OF PEACHTREE CITY, GEORGIA.
WHEREAS, the Peachtree City Code of Ethics states as a declaration of policy that its officials are to, “Create an environment of honesty, openness and integrity”; and
WHEREAS, the Peachtree City Code of Ethics states as a declaration of policy that, “The citizens of the City have confidence in the integrity of their government”; and
WHEREAS, the Peachtree City Code of Ethics states as a declaration of policy that, “The proper government and administration of the City requires that its officials use the power of their position for the well being of their constituents”; and
WHEREAS, the Peachtree City Mission Statement compels the elected leaders of Peachtree City to ensure residents a “healthy environment in which to live, work, and enjoy leisure time”; and
WHEREAS, the Peachtree City Mission Statement compels the elected leaders of Peachtree City to “promote a sense of community”; and
WHEREAS, Peachtree City Mayor Donnie Owen Haddix has created an untenable work environment by publicly belittling and criticizing current and former city employees, elected officials, and appointed officials, resulting in at least one lawsuit with related costs to the City; and
WHEREAS, Mayor Haddix has publicly criticized the Fayette County Development Authority, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and other agencies in a manner that has damaged Peachtree City’s relationship with those and other agencies; and
WHEREAS, the Mayor’s criticism of the Fayette County Development Authority ignores the fact that such entity has assisted in bringing the following businesses to Peachtree City: Sany, Cooper Lighting, Panasonic, Aventure Aviation, Hoshizaki, Shinsei, AIM Aircraft Spares, Rinnai, NCR, and more; and
WHEREAS, the citizens of Peachtree City and the City Council expect a return to civility, respect, integrity, and trust.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of Peachtree City, Georgia, that:
Section 1: The City Council has lost confidence in Mayor Donnie Owen Haddix.
Section 2: The City Council hereby censures Mayor Haddix for comments and actions that put the City of Peachtree City at financial risk, create an untenable work environment, and damage the City’s relationships with other governmental agencies.
Section 3: The City Council admonishes Mayor Haddix for comments and actions directed toward former Mayor Harold Logsdon and former employee Joey Grisham.
Section 4: The City Council asks that Mayor Haddix correctly carry out the duties of Mayor, adhere to the City Charter, Council Rules, and common courtesy, work effectively as a member of the City Council, and work effectively in his capacity of Mayor with other state and local government agencies.
Section 5: If Mayor Donnie Owen Haddix cannot or will not take corrective action to carry out the duties of Mayor, function as a member of City Council, and adequately represent the citizens of Peachtree City, the City Council asks that Mayor Haddix resign from office.
Section 6: This resolution is effective upon passage.