Haddix pay lawsuit won’t be ‘covered’
Taxpayers would be on hook for full bill if council fails to restore mayor’s pay
If Peachtree City Mayor Don Haddix files a lawsuit seeking full restoration of his salary in coming weeks, city taxpayers will be on the hook for the end result.
That’s because the city’s risk management company has denied coverage for the matter, which means the entire legal cost for defending the city council members will be on the city, as well as any damages and legal fees that might be awarded to Haddix, should he prevail.
Had the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency provided coverage, the city’s liability would be capped at $25,000. But according to GIRMA, coverage is not allowed because of several clauses in its member coverage agreement with the city, including an exclusion of coverage on cases arising from “any claim for salaries, wages or employment benefits.”
Time is running out on the 30-day window to restore Haddix’s pay as requested in a letter to the city by his attorney, Michael Bowers. If the mayor’s salary is not restored, with back pay reimbursed, the lawsuit will be filed, Bowers wrote.
Council members would not answer several questions last week arising from the potential lawsuit, chief among them was whether city taxpayers could expect to pay for the lawsuit.
Council members were also asked if they would pay for the lawsuit from their council salaries much like the situation they forced on Haddix by cutting his pay to recoup legal fees.
On a 4-1 vote in May, council voted to cut Haddix’s salary from $750 a month to just under $75 to recoup money the city spent to indirectly reimburse Haddix for his legal defense in a libel lawsuit filed by former Mayor Harold Logsdon over an email Haddix sent to a city employee. That pay cut was extended in the adopted budget for the upcoming fiscal year as well.
In the notice letter to the city, Bowers notes that the city charter requires the salary of mayor and council to be set during the previous term of mayor and council. Council’s solution to get around that language was to pass the pay cut as a “budget adjustment.”
Council members were upset after learning that Haddix sought reimbursement for the legal fees at $9,969 since the lawsuit was filed against him personally and not in his official capacity. But because Haddix was denied coverage at the outset by the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency, he had no choice but to choose an attorney himself instead of following the traditional process of being represented by either the city attorney or a lawyer appointed by council.
GIRMA noted that it chose to cover the cost because the issue at the heart of the libel suit was a comment Haddix made in an email to a city employee, which constituted an official act on Haddix’s part.
Although GIRMA approved coverage of the libel lawsuit against Haddix, the city ultimately had to reimburse GIRMA for the cost because it fell under the city’s $25,000 deductible for legal expenses in any one given case.