Peachtree City mayor is unfit for public office

Terry Garlock's picture

I take no pleasure in writing this opinion column. Highlighting someone’s virtues and accomplishments is far more satisfying than throwing rocks at shortcomings, especially in someone I used to talk to now and then over coffee.

But I feel a duty to speak up since I wrote a column recommending Don Haddix to voters when he was running against Cyndi Plunkett for Peachtree City Mayor in 2009. I thought I knew him, but I drank the wrong Kool-Aid and I was not only wrong, I was spectacularly wrong.

Shortly after Haddix took office as mayor, stories emerged of conflict from his head games at City Hall, but I discounted that as personality clashes from political rivalry.

Week after week stories of childish antics were hard to swallow about lying in public statements to make another councilman look bad, refusing to budget past the current year, denying an obviously erroneous public statement even when read the transcript from a prior council meeting, and so on.

I wondered, surely he can’t be that Machiavellian and ... well, stupid, can he?

When some voters started to talk about a recall for Haddix, my comment was, “Recall for what? A politician telling lies about a political opponent? That’s the world’s second oldest profession!” I even told my buddy Mike King he should lighten up and give Haddix a break. Over time, one event after another slowly opened my eyes.

The most recent controversy is about Haddix’s maneuvers to have the city pay his roughly $10,000 bill for personal legal fees, for which the city did pay in April. There is a clamor from citizens who know about this to recover the money from Haddix.

Personally, I don’t think this is about the money. This episode puts on public display Haddix’s character deficit, which is of far more concern than $10,000.

Ask yourself what kind of leader sends an email to a city employee containing libelous remarks about former Mayor Harold Logsdon? That conduct is beneath any manager or elected official. It is also dumber than a box of rocks to put it in writing on city email, which is subject to become public.

When Haddix’s email did become public, Logsdon sued Haddix for defamation.

I would argue it is not the offending email that reveals so much about Haddix. I have said and done some very unwise things in my life that made me wish for a do-over, and I’ll bet you have, too.

The measure of someone is not whether he accidentally or intentionally crosses the “stupid line,” the measure of him is how he handles it, how he takes responsibility to make it right.

Imagine if Haddix had talked to Logsdon to personally apologize: “Harold, I blew it. I did something I should not have done, it was stupid, I apologize, and since my remarks became public I will make my apology just like this one public. Is that enough to put this behind us?”

I don’t know Logsdon that well, but I’d bet money he would have accepted such a genuine public apology.

But of course Haddix stood his ground, published an equivocating non-apology with enough spin to make readers dizzy, and the face-off escalated.

When Logsdon sued, he named Don Haddix the individual, not the mayor of Peachtree City, and made it known he intentionally did so because he didn’t want taxpayers to pay any penalty from Haddix’s misdeeds.

Underscoring the personal nature of the dispute, Haddix did not use the city attorney; he hired his own personal attorney.

I don’t know anything about the confidential settlement negotiated between Haddix and Logsdon, but I would guess that Haddix discovered he had no defense and agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to settle the matter. The city has not been involved.

So this matter that could have been resolved with an honorable apology went further than it needed to go. You would think that to settle the matter Haddix had to cough up a penalty amount plus his attorney fees, and maybe even Logsdon’s attorney fees as well.

But you would be wrong.

He didn’t pay for it; you did.

Peachtree City has an agreement with GIRMA, a risk management firm, on coverage of litigation matters. Without the knowledge of the City Council, Haddix submitted a claim to GIRMA for his legal bills of nearly $10,000. Haddix’s argument was that when he libeled Logsdon, he was acting in his capacity as mayor.

This is a good point to ask yourself what any public official should do in this circumstance. An honorable person would take responsibility for their own personal mess and pay the bills for the settlement they personally negotiated and the attorney they personally hired.

Further, even if that honorable person felt there was a good argument GIRMA should cover the matter, he would insist that the City Council not only be aware of his claim to GIRMA, but to also support his efforts so there would be no impropriety or self-dealing, whether in appearance or in fact.

But Haddix did not disclose anything to the City Council.

GIRMA denied his request to have them pay his legal bills, saying it was a personal matter.

Haddix appealed to GIRMA, the claim was denied again. Haddix appealed a second time and was denied again, all without the knowledge of the City Council.

I have to give Haddix points for being relentless when working for his own personal benefit at the expense of taxpayers. Rather than giving up and paying his own legal bills, Haddix enlisted the help of the city attorney, Ted Meeker, who sent Haddix’s fourth request to GIRMA with his cover letter, and this time GIRMA relented and agreed to cover the matter.

The City Council was not informed that GIRMA wrote a check to Haddix for roughly $10,000 in March.

In April, the City Council was not informed that Peachtree City reimbursed GIRMA the $10,000 per the contractual agreement due to a $25,000 deductible per legal matter. I don’t know enough details, but sounds like disbursement controls need to be tightened up.

As the May 17 City Council meeting approached, the City Council still had not been informed of Haddix’s maneuvers that resulted in taxpayers paying his legal bills.

On Friday May 11, City Council members received their packet for the next week’s May 17 meeting. The “disclosure” of the city paying Haddix’s legal bills was one line item buried in a long list of items on an attachment for legal matters.

Even without the “red flag” disclosure it deserved, City Council members discovered that Haddix had engineered the city paying his legal bills, resulting in heated discussion and challenge at the May 17 City Council meeting.

Haddix was repeatedly asked by all four of the other City Council members to repay the money but he refused, saying, “I’m entitled” to coverage. Haddix did agree to release the settlement agreement.

Ask yourself what kind of mayor works relentlessly for his own personal benefit at taxpayer expense without disclosure to his fellow City Council members?

The City Council is formally asking GIRMA to reconsider the claim, to reverse its coverage decision and require Haddix to disgorge the $10,000 because Haddix was sued as an individual, hired an attorney as an individual, negotiated a settlement as an individual and failed to inform the City Council of his communications with GIRMA.

If all that is not enough to make you nauseous, hold onto your gag reflex for this tidbit. When Haddix had not released the settlement agreement he promised to disclose, this paper reminded Haddix of the state law on three days to respond to a public record request.

Haddix responded by saying that very follow-up request started his three-day clock all over again, thereby busting the meter that applies the laugh test.

We all expect our friends and associates to conduct themselves honorably, with good judgment and integrity, and we expect them to deal with us straight-up, open and honest. From our public officials, we expect an even higher standard since they hold a public trust to act on our behalf.

I have come to the realization slowly and reluctantly that Haddix has none of the virtues we expect from public officials.

Everything he does in the remainder of his term will need an extra measure of scrutiny because neither we taxpayers nor his fellow City Council members can trust him.

[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is terry@garlock1.com.]

SPQR
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Mimi's is open

now that's some good news for a change.

yellowjax1212
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Thank you Terry

For your honest and open letter. We all get taken in sometimes and obviously Haddix stirred the pot enough and with the full support of this newspaper spun up an anti-incumbent frenzy against Mayor Logsdon (who was not running for re-election), Cyndi Plunkett and the rest of the council to turn the voters his way in a very effective fashion.
I must say that I first met Don a few years ago when citizens were tossing their hats in the ring to fill a vacated council spot. Don was one of those who applied for the vacancy and in his presentation to the council (those who decide and appoint the position) he was the most accusatory and condescending person I had ever seen. Who goes into a job interview and accuses the company and the management of malfeasance and borderline criminal acts? At first I thought that he was just using the podium time to make a point, however, I can remember his shock and dismay when he was eliminated from consideration in the first round. It was then that I decided that this guy was a rabble-rouser at best and at worst that he was quite off his rocker.
Considering myself to be a pretty good judge of character, I tried to tell as many people as I could of the Don Haddix I has seen show his rear in that public forum but, unfortunately the feeding frenzy was on in the next election the rest is history.
Well, we've got what the majority elected. Perhaps next time more people will take an interest and actually get out and vote. I hope that it is not too late to attract good people to run for office but I fear that ship may have sailed.

mudcat
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The next time is right now, yellowjax

3 county commission seats and 3 (possibly 4) school board seats - all this year. That is huge. Seems like some new names have emerged in both races and I'm with you yellowjax, be very, very careful. Sadly a July election is not going to be very well-attended, but that just means a small number of thinking people can have as much influence as a small special interest group supporting an unbalanced or unAmerican candidate.

Many people saw Obama as a dangerous rabble rouser, but he did a great job of running against Bush (who was not running) and was very clear that he intended to transform America. Hope and change implied something positive, but we as voters were not paying attention. Not sure whether Haddix or Obama has done the most damage, but there sure are some strong similarities.

I just can't imagine Plunkett and McCain taking the city or the country down this incredibly damaging 3-year journey down the rabbit hole. Can you?

Nevertheless, we have 6 or7 chances to redirect things from the Smith/Smola build, build, spend, spend type of leadership and dismantling the Frady, Hearn, Horgan cabal that also like to build and spend.

ctkcec
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Memorial Day

Terry I wanted to thank you for the outstanding speech you delivered on Memorial Day. Rarely does a speech move me to tears but your did. Thank you for your service.

tgarlock
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Thanks David, I was proud . . .

. . . to stand up with you. Cudos on 14 years as MC of a most honorable event.

tgarlock
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Calling Kevin King

Kevin, thanks for your card with your phone number, which I promptly lost after leaving Mimi's. Please contact me at terry@garlock1.com so we can arrange to tell lies about flying over coffee, especially now that Mimi's is open again as of Tue morn. But I don't want to argue politics with you as I don't want to risk losing.

Terry Garlock

MYTMITE
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So Kevin, you are really in the area again. You have been

missed. Know you did not want to blog on this site anymore but you and your wit are sorely missed. pls get in touch.

mudcat
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Perfect Terry, as was your speech on Monday

You are a true patriot. Haddix is a conniving weasel and will be replaced soon. I hope he resigns honorably instead of putting the PTC citizens through a recall election and the expense associated with that. Either way he is gone. Don't you think he would take the honorable way out? Better than hanging on and having to face the real people at Fresh Market with his fresh wife. Right?

tgarlock
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Thanks, Mudcat, for high praise of my speech Monday.

It was truly a special honor for me to be able to talk publicly about the ones who did not come home alive. Here's something you didn't know. Mike King received the Silver Star, our country's 3rd highest award for valor. But he won't tell you the story, and if you call Mike a hero he'd laugh in your face because he knows what the rest of us know, that the heroes are the ones who paid with their life.

Mike King
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My Friend Terry....

...You are indeed correct in that those we lost are indeed the heroes. I would take it a step further to acknowledge those they left behind, the widows, widowers, parents and orphans for they are much more deserving of any award that you or any like us have ever received.

Like the child you mentioned in your speech whose dad died a hero's death just days after learning he was a dad, no greater debt does a nation owe than to those whose sole memory of their soldier parent/child is likely a discolored photo or a tear stained letter.

For me, the anguish of an orphan, parent or widow(er)during our conflict as our nation seemed to turn its back, makes all that you or I have experienced seem miniscule.

PTC Observer
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Mr. Garlock - Excellent

Thanks for writing this column, it was our mistake, not entirely yours.

If Mr. Haddix does not take personal financial responsibility for his actions, Mr. Haddix has other personal legal issues in his future.

This is a promise Mr. Haddix. You have taken our money without our representatives' permission and therefore you have stolen our money. You have used city assets against city policy for the purpose of slander. We will find this out when we get the document. Perhaps this $10,000 theft falls into the realm of fraud. If so, you will be found guilty of it based on the facts. It will be a long and expensive lesson in personal responsibility Mr. Haddix, and I for one am willing to pay to see you learn it. There is no court in this land that will take your side.

In short, you are wrong and you will soon find out just how wrong.

Give the money up Mr. Haddix and apologize to the citizens of this city.

If you're able, do the honorable thing or pay the price for dishonor.

Mike King
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Very Well Stated!

The latest episode of trying to hide his private legal fees from the other four council members only adds a total lack of credibility to his resume. Can he actually claim that he was not intentionally trying to steal funds from the city coffers?

Perhaps a review of his travel and expense accounts are in order.

borntorun
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King Donnie.....All Hail The King

The unmitigated gall on display by Donnie Darko is breathtaking in its width and depth. Basically thumbing the nose of the citizens of PTC, he first tries to sneak a $10,000 payment through without Council's knowledge much less legally required approval by vote, then refuses to reimburse the citizens of what amounts to a raid on our paid taxes and now is stonewalling the release of the agreement with a cock and bull rationale about the clock starting over. Congratulations, Donnie! You have achieved the unachievable. You have surpassed the Brown Clown as the biggest embarrassment to ever hold the office of mayor. A feat I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Unbelievable!

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