Ethics beef with PTC mayor could be costly to taxpayers

Board has no power to fine Haddix or require restitution of $10K in legal fees

There is some concern that an ethics complaint filed against Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix will eclipse the $10,000 in city funds he is accused of misusing to defend himself in a lawsuit filed by former Mayor Harold Logsdon.

The revelation of the expenditure in May riled Haddix’s fellow council members to the point where they voted to dock his pay for the remainder of the fiscal year, reducing it from $750 a month to about $75 a month.

There is significantly more at stake here, as Haddix has selected an attorney to represent him in the ethics complaint, Anne Kaufold-Wiggins of the Balch & Bingham law firm.

Responding to a question Thursday night from Councilman Eric Imker, Haddix noted that Kaufold-Wiggins’ hourly rate is $300.

By contrast, City Attorney Ted Meeker charges the city $110 an hour. And while normally Meeker would be able to advise the ethics board, he will not be able to do so in this case because he is listed as a potential witness in the hearing.

Because of that the council voted Thursday night to appoint attorney Laurel Henderson to advise the ethics board. Henderson bills at a rate of $150 per hour.

It was noted that an ethics complaint filed 10 years ago against former city Councilman Steve Rapson cost the city about $36,000. There is no way for the city to limit the number of hours worked by the attorneys in the case, Meeker said.

If the board ultimately finds Haddix violated the ethics ordinance, it can take one of several actions including a formal reprimand, admonishment not to violate the ethics ordinance again or it can recommend “termination, resignation or recall” and also recommend prosecution in city court.

There is no provision for the ethics board to levy any sort of a fine or require restitution in any case, but there is no requirement for the board’s action to be ratified by council.

Haddix, who was sued last year by Logsdon in his personal capacity only, hired his own attorney and settled the case in December, but later convinced the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency (GIRMA) to cover his attorney’s fees and the $3,000 settlement with Logsdon. Because of the city’s contract with GIRMA and the $25,000 deductible, GIRMA cut a check to Haddix which had to be reimbursed by the city.

City resident Steve Thaxton in the ethics complaint said that Haddix used the process to avoid seeking approval from council to cover the costs. But GIRMA officials have written that had the agency known from the beginning that the lawsuit centered on an email Haddix sent to a city employee, it would have covered Haddix from the very beginning of the case.

Councilman Eric Imker said he wanted to make clear that if the mayor intends on suing over his pay reduction, any such legal work should be billed to him and not the city, although the ethics complaint legal work will have to be covered by the city.

The city’s ethics board for the hearing will consist of an already-appointed chairman and four people drawn out of a hat from a pool of nine persons, each of whom were appointed by council members. That drawing is expected to take place at a special called council meeting at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday night.

At the beginning of the year each council member including the mayor was allowed to appoint two members each to the pool of ethics board members.

If the ethics board determines that Haddix committed a violation, it has several choices according to city ordinance:

• A public reprimand and admonishment not to violate the ethics code in the future;

• A formal reprimand;

• Public censure;

• Recommendation for termination, resignation or recall;

• Recommendation of prosecution in municipal court; and

• No admonishment and no further action.

Betsy Tyler
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CORRECTION to Cost Comparison Information

Above, Mr. Munford quotes the City Attorney as saying "an ethics complaint filed 10 years ago against former city Councilman Steve Rapson cost the city about $36,000." Meeker said this at the June 16 Council meeting, but it was based on inaccurate information I gave him.

Earlier in the day, I was told the "last one cost $36,000." I incorrectly interpreted this as the last ethics complaint, when the statement applied to attorneys fees for the last hearing, an employee appeal matter.

The process is similar, but I did not want the figure incorrectly attributed. Unfortunately, we do not have the detailed financials as far back as 2002 for a comparison to the Ethics cases heard that year.

My apologies.
Betsy

borntorun
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Donnie and The Cost of Justice

That's some kinda expensive esquire Donnie Darko has hired at city expense! But I'm not surprised. A man who had no problem sticking it to the citizens with personal legal bills surely would have no qualms with sticking it to the citizens with the bill from a high priced/high powered Big City esquire to defend himself against these charges. However, seems to me if Teddy can't represent him, whoever is hired should not be able to charge more than the $110 per hour the city contracts with Teddy for his services. But if that is not the case, then so be it. The cost of justice is often high. Hell, we are spending over $500,000 slapping up a bubble over a swimming hole that fewer than 1% of the PTC citizens use. So take it out of the bubble budget if necessary since this situation affects ALL of PTC. And amend the city ordinance to so that an outside esquire cannot charge more than what the contracted city esquire can charge. Sad to see the Ethics Committee is a toothless tiger (anyone surprised??) and has no authority to fine or ask for restitution from Donnie if convicted. But, if convicted, hopefully a recommendation for termination, resignation or recall as well as prosecution in municipal court is made. Question though is who gets the recommendation and makes the decision to move on the recommendations? Council? Teddy? Scott Ballard? The Brown Clown? Mike King? Robert W Morgan? Mudcat? Where the heck is Mad Mike to answer our questions??

MYTMITE
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BTR, MadMike is busy checking his new dictionary to find some

big (more than three letter) words to use in his next blog delineating his duties as the Exalted Chair. He did give his e-mail address in one of his blogs so he could answer all of your questions personally. Please do not take up too much of Mikey's time as he has to get ready for his chairing duties. Getting a new haircut, mani and pedi, and getting his brain waxed.

PTC Observer
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Paying the bill for Mr. Haddix

"...as Haddix has selected an attorney to represent him in the ethics complaint, Anne Kaufold-Wiggins of the Balch & Bingham law firm."

Why exactly does Mr. Haddix get to select an attorney, aren't the citizens paying the bill?

I don't think I would pick a $300 attorney to represent him, maybe a $24.50 attorney, but not $300 bucks. No way!

AtHomeGym
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Hey John, why don't you jus

Hey John, why don't you jus stay distant from the entire issue and then write a column on the conclusion.

mudcat
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"There is some concern" - Huh? John?

No John, there is no concern about the cost of prosecuting this little man and getting him censured of out of office. How dare you suggest there is "concern" about the cost. How dare you! You crossed the line here John as a journalist.If not - cite your source or at least quote him. Nobody is "concerned" about the cost of exterminating this vile little insect from the mayor's office. His lying and thievery is unmistakeable and I doubt that any single taxpayer in PTC would care a whit about spending $36,000 or even $136,000 to purge this man from our city.

How dare you John to say "there is some concern" No there is not. Dump this guy now. He's a snake.

I think the mayor has primed you with the "There is concern" comment and you bit into it.

Deny or confirm.

rolling stone
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Actually mudcat, there is some concern

regarding the cost to the city of this ethics violation deal, at least from one person I can testify for. I find it possible that there may be one other who talked to John but for reasons obvious thought it best to stay anonymous. I believe in finding the good where I can, and the good that may come out of this is significantly more wine sales in PTC.

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