In retaliation for the council slashing his salary to repay the $12,000 in legal fees they said the city incurred, Mayor Don Haddix notified them on Monday of his intention to officially challenge their decision to reduce his salary.
At that June 8 council meeting, councilman Eric Imker said that, as a result of Haddix’s suit, the city budget was suffering a budget shortfall of, not $10,000, but $12,000. The calculation, Imker noted, included an additional $2,186 in legal fees with 17 separate invoices from the city attorney since April 2011, on top of the $9,969 paid to the mayor by GIRMA [Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency]
To help balance that, Imker recommended adjusting Haddix’s salary from $750 a month to $74.50 per month for the remainder of
the FY12 budget year, for a total of $675.30, to go towards repayment of the settlement. Legally, the council is only authorized to make budget adjustments within each fiscal year.
Imker also indicated that he planned to initiate a motion to apply for a reduction for the next 12 months, FY’13, as well as, when the time comes, the remaining three months of Haddix’s term of FY’14. That would mean a reduction of $8,103.60 for FY’ 13 and an additional $2,025.90 in FY’14.
Councilwoman Kim Learnard said this was about “giving the people a voice” and that “expenditures of $12,000 without knowledge of the council and citizens” was inherently wrong and that was her job is to protect taxpayers and that she “never imagined she would have to protect them from the mayor, but that’s the situation.”
At the time, Haddix indicated, in a public statement that one of his possible options in retaliation would be to “ take legal action, preferably individually. They are trying to override a legal insurance payment. Win or loose, it would cost money to defend and consume time that could be better spent elsewhere. Another issue they would have to explain to the citizens.”
On Monday, council was served with notice from attorney Michael Bowers, a managing partner in Atlanta-based law firm Balch & Bingham, LLP, that Haddix was filing a suit against the city unless the matter could be resolved within the next 30 days. Bowers is the former Attorney General of Georgia.
According to Bowers, Haddix intends to “assert, among other things, claims for declaratory judgement, injunction, conversion, breach of contract, attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses...”
“While the city council may have disagreed with the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency’s (GIRMA) decision to reimburse Mr. Haddix, the city council has no authority to use self-help methods to collect the amount of the reimbursement and other legal expenses from the salary of Mr. Haddix.
“First, the city council has no authority to reduce Mr. Haddix’s salary during his term.
“Second, approval of the annual budget and all budget amendments thereto are required to be approved by the mayor and council. Mr. Haddix did not approve the purported ‘budget amendment’ or ‘budget ordinance’.”
Bowers also noted the budget amendment “singles out Mr. Haddix and penalizes him for GIRMA’s decision to reimburse him; therefore it is a legislatively enacted punishment constituting a bill attainder and is void.”
Bowers said the city is liable for the ‘unlawful conversion’ of Haddix’s salary and if the city council does not authorize the payment of the salary currently owed and restoration of his salary, the members of the council are acting “oppressively, maliciously, corruptly, without authority of law and in bad faith.” Such actions, he noted, may subject each member to personal liability.
More than that, if the dispute wasn’t resolved “it is the citizens of Peachtree City that will suffer because their already limited resources will be wasted in defending the unlawful actions of the city council taken on June 7.”