In an 11th hour decision, the Peachtree City resident who filed the ethics complaint against Mayor Don Haddix ultimately dropped the complaint even though his original offer was not accepted.
On Monday, August 13, resident Steve Thaxton filed an ethics complain against Haddix in connection with the reimbursement Haddix received from GIRMA (Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency) as a result of his libel suit with former Mayor Harold Logsdon.
According to the suit “Haddix unilaterally negotiated expenditures of city funds without the consent of the governing body by consenting to pay $3,000 in settlement agreement to conclude a personal lawsuit.
“Mr. Haddix subsequently received a check from the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency for these funds, which wer reimbursed back to GIRMA from the taxpayers of Peachtree City.”
In the complaint, Thaxton contends that the “slanderous statement that this whole issue is about cannot be considered city business.”
He also noted that “Clearly by appealing to have his legal bills paid by GIRMA and knowing the city had a $25,000 deductible, Mr. Haddix had in effect taken advantage of a way to settle his personal legal issues without regard to th citizens of Peachtree City.”
A fourth violation complaint contends the Haddix never “divulged any information about his case either orally or in writing nor any resulting payments and/or to any party there of. On May 17, 2012 the subterfuge of expenditures came to the attention of city council and to the taxpayers via a monthly report for litigation services.”
In a fifth violation listed in the complaint, Thaxton contends that Haddix hiring attorney John Mrosek to handle his suit was wrong.
“Independent of Mr. Mrosek’s employment by Mr. Haddix, Mr. Mrosek sued Peachtree City in an unrelated issue. Mr. Haddix was being represented by a lawyer who was suing the city at the same time. The business relationship between Mr. Haddix and Mr. Mrosek was never presented to council either orally or in writing. City council inadvertently discovered this conflict of interest in the May 2012 timeframe, clearly exceeding the 10-day requirement to identify the business relationship.”
Thaxton also charges that Haddix breached the confidentiality clause in his settlement which could open the city for further liability and, more than that, Haddix violated the ethics ordinance simply by utilizing the city’s equipment to send the offending email that started the case and by using the city attorney for personal business.
According to the city’s ethics ordinance, the ethics board had 15 days to organize a four-member panel (with two alternates) to hear the complaint from among the board members already selected by the council.
Last Thursday, the city council opted to hold off selecting the panel since there would not be the required nine names to pick from since one of councilman George Dienhart’s selections had moved out of the area. They also declined to approve the mayor’s choice of attorney, Anne KaufoldHiggins. Part of the problem was that council didn’t want to start the timer on the mayor’s choice of a $300 an hour attorney, on top of the fact that the city would have to hire an outside attorney, Laurel Henderson, at $150 an hour. Instead, the opted to put it off until Dienhart’s selection to the ethics board could undergo a background check and officially be approved.
At the special called public meeting to select the board, Thaxton showed up and
offered to drop the complaint after the hearing was resolved, without waiting for any punitive decisions, if Haddix would be willing to forgo using an attorney during the hearing.
“The reason I filed the complaint was because you cost the city over $12,000 in unnecessary legal expenses because of the lawsuit against you.”
Thaxton said since the hearing was only before a board of Peachtree City residents, not in a court of law, Haddix could forego the legal representation.
“Why did you choose such a high priced Atlanta attorney in lieu of a local attorney at a lower cost?”
“I felt the this firm would represent me best.”
Haddix stood firm on his resolve to not forego his right to an attorney, even after Thaxton made his offer.
“Win or lose, after the hearing and before any punitive action, if you forego using an attorney for the hearing, I’ll withdraw my complaint after the process is complete.”
Haddix told him Thaxton he was trying to deny him his right to an attorney, which would be covered under the city’s indemnification policy.
“The answer is no. I’m entitled to representation during the process.”
Ultimately, Thaxton said he would drop the complaint to avoid “causing the citizens extraneous expense” for the cost of the attorneys.