PTC sex suits settlement costs: $840K

Peachtree City Manager Jim Pennington.

PTC taxpayers on the hook for $61,000 in latest case

A new accounting of the cost of settling a sex and disability discrimination case against Peachtree City officials and police chief H.C. “Skip” Clark shows that Peachtree City taxpayers paid $60,905 directly to defend and ultimately settle the case.

The $300,000 settlement itself will be paid by the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Association (GIRMA) on behalf of the city.

All told, so far this year, the city has settled three cases involving either sexual harassment or sexual discrimination charges for a total of $840,000 in insurance payouts.

Though that’s roughly the equivalent of a half-mill in city property taxes, the city relied on its liability insurance carrier for the bulk of the payouts. However, the city’s taxpayers do pay for billable hours by its own attorney and for any increase in insurance premiums that may result from the three payouts.

In addition to a $25,000 deductible on the case that the city must pay to GIRMA and $5,000 in back pay the city will pay former police department administrative assistant Lisa Ficalore, the city has also racked up $30,905 in legal fees defending the suit over the past three-plus years, according to city documents.

That amount is at least five times what the city paid to defend outgoing Mayor Don Haddix in a libel lawsuit filed by current mayoral runoff candidate Harold Logsdon in 2011. Four members of the council in mid-2012 cut Haddix’s salary to recoup the $10,000 costs incurred by the city, contending that the lawsuit was brought against Haddix “in his individual capacity” and not as mayor.

That action was later reversed by the council after Haddix began proceedings to bring suit against them for enacting an illegal bill of attainder.

In the current Ficalore suit, all five members of the council also were sued in their individual capacities, just as Haddix had been. One of the five sued and voting for settlement is current mayoral runoff candidate Vanessa Fleisch.

The settlement approved Nov. 7 by the City Council ends Ficalore’s federal lawsuit, which claimed that Chief Clark retaliated against Ficalore based on her gender and her usage of medical leave for a disability.

The lawsuit claimed that Ficalore received two demotions after Clark became police chief in August 2010. The first demotion was to a lower-paying administrative position in the police department. The second demotion assigned Ficalore to City Hall in a position that was later eliminated by the city.

The city offered Ficalore a choice of six weeks’ severance pay if she resigned or she could take the position on a part-time basis, and she chose part-time.

The lawsuit was backed by an investigation conducted by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the settlement decision was made by GIRMA with little input from the city, except for a commitment to pay $5,000 in back pay to Ficalore. The settlement was reached following a mediation hearing between Ficalore, the city and GIRMA officials last month, city officials said.

During the EEOC investigation, there were allegations that Chief Clark interfered with the EEOC probe by intimidating two high-ranking officers who backed Ficalore’s allegations of disability discrimination and unlawful retaliation.

The EEOC issued a cease and desist order on Clark to prohibit such conduct, as Ficalore’s lawsuit alleged that Clark told one of the officers it would be “bad” if that officer didn’t back him (Clark) up on the matter.

City Attorney Ted Meeker said the decision to settle the Ficalore case was a financial one made in part due to “having to litigate almost every employment decision made over the course of the last two and a half years.”

Meeker in a statement Nov. 8 contended that none of Ficalore’s claims had any merit with the “possible exception” of a demotion Ficalore was denied after she was transferred from the police department to city hall. Ficalore’s lawsuit contended she was denied that promotion because the court clerk determined Ficalore might might have difficulty working with police officers based on her issues with the department.

Meeker said the city “immediately reversed that decision upon becoming aware of the court clerk’s comments.”

Meeker noted that in the past three years, four people have filed discrimination charges against the police department including Ficalore’s case. Of the others, two were dismissed and the third was settled for $1,000 before a lawsuit could be filed, he said.

This is, however, the second significant discrimination lawsuit the city has settled in 2013. In March a $350,000 settlement was approved with a female firefighter who claimed that former fire chief Ed Eiswerth made multiple sexual advances toward her including an incident in which he forced his way into her hotel room at a conference.

Also in March, the city settled another discrimination lawsuit for $190,000 to halt a lawsuit filed by a female firefighter over an incident in which a former assistant fire chief groped her breasts in a bathroom.

pumpkin
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and your understanding for safe in peachtree city is?

safe from walking the streets, safe from gangs, robbers, what about blacks, are you concerned about traffic, what is your bubble? what about safe from friends swearing in friends, what about not responding in writing, what about meeting personally outside of council.

careful what you vote for, and connections. follow the money

AtHomeGym
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pumpkin & 'swearing in'

So tell us, who did you choose for YOUR swearing in? What? No swearing in? Ahhhhh shucks. So why don't you just sit back and throw rocks at those who PTC citizens DID elect--that's about as close as you'll get!

PTCitizen
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Don't bother with truth or reason...

The ignorant behavior of bloggers on this website calls to my mind one of the great political satires of our time: "Southpark": the animated Comedy Central series. In this analogy the writers of this paper would, of course, be situational rabble rouser inciting the disharmony of the day, and the bloggers would be the alarmist townies, gathered in mass, grumbling "rabble rabble rabble" as they spring to riot over the latest controversy. Never they mind the truth that they were too blinded by mob-mentatlity style hate mongering to see.

In this case it seems to be everyone spooled up over ousting a police chief, without any real regard for examining the details to see if it makes sense. Nuk and some others obviously have some personal attachment to the situation fueling such behavior, but some others are just blindly jumping on the train.
Why should the city remove the Police Chief when there was no merit to the claim against him? I fail to see how another city employee (Court Clerk), who I assume is not his responsibility, taking inappropriate action against an employee based upon an open complaint is his fault. That is the basis for the settlement, according to the city staff - but if you're going to read this paper you have to wade through a bunch of inflammatory filler to find the find evidence of that. The City Manager or their attorney should really make it a point to straighten such things out publicly if their press releases are not going to make it clear - or if the paper is not going to publish what is clear (whichever may be the case).

mrobinson_ptc
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No merit to the claim?

One could assume that insurance companies don't settle unless the financial risk of litigating and losing the case outweighs the settlement amount. The claim of merit or lake thereof has never been truly vetted in a court. On one side, you have the EEOC sending a warning specifically related to the Police Chief's actions. On the other, a beleaguered city with an onslaught of issues documented already. Wouldn't ANOTHER proven allegation be far more devastating than finding a way to get this over with and move on?

And we also learned that everyone has a price - principles be damned.

The City's current senior management has proven it is the wrong choice to lead Peachtree City's government. Hopefully the next set of elected leaders will restore a more responsive, inclusive, citizen focused operation that stops wasting huge amounts of taxpayer money on litigation, outsourcing mistakes and poor decisions.

PTCitizen
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No merit to part

I don't think anybody said there was no merit to "anything" claimed. I'm just saying that if you read the city's statements, it actually adds up. They pretty much admit that she was inappropriately denied a position by city management due to her involvement in the suit. They state the other claims had no merit. Now read the breakdown of the expenses and terms (100k+ in attorney fees, total 300k settlement). This is consistent with a settlement effectively knowing the risk of losing the job position part. If a suit that took that long, with fees that high, is settled for a mere 300k, their statements are probably correct. A retaliation claim (job denial etc) on top of a valid initial complaint typically adds a notable multiplier to the original damages amount or settlement. This is quite obviously not the case. Just compare the other suit detailed on this site - the fire employee had suit that nobody seems to have even contested, was settled quickly, and the settlement was the same amount. Even common sense should point out that this doesn't add up when put in that context -- to those familiar litigation, this should jump out at you.

Spyglass
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Link? No link?

Help us..

YourGoodPalMike
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Have you talked to this publisher?

If you're actually expecting real journalism and unbiased reporting, the last place you should look is The Citizen.

How many people pay for this paper?

I wonder how many of these papers make it out of the plastic wrap before landing in the trashcan.

I imagine that if we had to request it in our driveway the circulation would be very light.

MYTMITE
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So, don't read the paper. Evidently you have or are still

reading it in order to make the negative remarks you make regarding the paper. Maybe you should start a new one local paper and give us the benefit of your expertise.

So, what are your views on this site which that same publisher has made available to us to vent our views as you continue to do--and he hasn't even banned you! Must be pretty lenient don't you think?

LongTimer
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We let Haddix take $12,000.

Haddix took $12,000 and we voted him out of office, now Skippy has cost us $60,000 and we set around with our respective thumbs up our...well you know.
Where's the hue and cry for Ol' Skippy's head on a pike or running him out of town on a rail...Hum?

Spyglass
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Haddix's number came up first...

He garnered 5%.....

I would think Skippy is on the clock.

Husband and Fat...
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Longtimer

I suspect with the new people starting on council next year, they will take a good hard look at the chief.

PTC is not immune to lawsuits, especially when some like to go after the deep pockets.

We also must take a close look at the way the city has been managed the last 4 years. One bad mayor, two city managers, council re-aligning departments, infighting among council. It was a recipe for problems. The paper had an article within the last two weeks about the challenges Dr. Pennington has had.

There was clearly a lack of open communication between the chief and city hall. He has every right to build his department as he sees is the best for the city and the protection of the citizens. There was obviously no plan in place to get rid of the woman who called in sick a tremendous amount of time. No business can work that way. In my humble opinion, this is a result of poor management all around and not just the chief.

I feel safe in PTC and don't think anyone can pin the blame on one person.

Spyglass
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I too attribute a lot of our issues to POOR leadership

Thankfully the POOR leadership has been shown the door. Will be interesting to see if things are smoother now.

We could have done better at Mayor the last 4 years by taking a bright 4th Grader from Peachtree City Elementary and putting them in charge.

pumpkin
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it truley will ......................be interesting

an honest man with a vision of how the pioneers saw the future.

let's watch where the money leads.

NUK_1
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Skippy's day is coming

Mike King and retired PTCPD Terry Ernst being elected pretty much means the end to his career in PTC once they take office and I'll be a happy man about that. A bad hire in the first place.

Robert W. Morgan
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Mike takes office tonight!

Terry is the light at the end of the tunnel that is that train bearing down on the chief. The key is Vanessa. How will she as mayor manage the process. Hopefully properly and hopefully through the city manager who may get some of his mojo back now that he is free of Haddix.

I doubt the Public Safety Director conversation will continue, but if it does I'm sure that some idiot will suggest putting Skip in that job and leaving his friend from FL top cop. That would be a huge step backwards.

Husband and Fat...
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RWM

I doubt Vanessa will stick her neck out either way until after the election.

I'm going to keep my mouth shut on the issue of the chief, but would hate to make a change due to a vendetta. This boondoggle of a harassment lawsuit was due to chaos at city hall and shouldn't be nailed to one person.

The question is, do we feel safe in PTC. I think we do.

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