The opening salvo in what could be the start of a contentious election cycle was fired Thursday night-- and it wasn’t from any one of the candidates, but from the only incumbent not facing an election season.
At the Peachtree City council meeting, councilman Eric Imker blasted Mayor Don Haddix over comments made on blogs and a local newspaper for headlines that were inaccurate.
“I’m not anywhere on the ballot and I dont want to interject myself anywhere in this whatsoever, but my name is being used improperly.”
Imker said he asked city attorney Ted Meeker if he could respond to refute any such erroneous statements and Meeker said “a councilmember always has the ability to defend himself from statements made by the public, including other elected officials.” (Ed. note: See editorial page for Imker’s guest column and more comments.)
Imker said that at the last city council meeting, when the council was discussing options for dealing with the maintenance of the city’s cart paths, the next issue of a local paper had “Imker okay with higher taxes” as a headline.
“I have no clue how that came from my presentation at the last council meeting. I specifically went out of my way that night saying all I wanted to do was list the options. If that’s what someone took away saying that they think the SPLOST was the best option or a higher mill rate was the best option or a G.O. bond constituting a tax increase was the best option, that’s their take away. I never said I was okay with higher taxes. I abhor higher taxes. And I wish they would print a retraction.”
More than that, said Imker, his name was attached to quotes that said “others on council, especially [former city councilman George] Dienhart and Imker go for low bids.”
“I’d appreciate somebody who says something like that to document it, with date and time where that quote is made. And I’d point out that, just a few months ago, we voted here on the dais for a phone system that wasn’t the low bid. So saying something like that and denigrating my name - or attempting to- I don’t appreciate it.”
Another quote, said Imker was that he, councilmembers Vanessa Fleisch and Kim Learnard “said they would vote to proceed even though the contract company said that on the old foundation there would be no liability or warranty. This was regarding the decking around the Kedron swimming pool at the aquatic center. That is a totally false statement. I’ve researched six or seven different council meetings in 2011 and just the opposite happened. We voted for a $6,000 structural testing to see what would happen and that was a unanimous vote. It was also a unanimous vote to go with the warranty.
“Statements like this have no place in an election season unless you can document the truth of it.”
Imker’s last example, was the fact there had been implication that he said “the Kedron bubble sells homes.
“I never said that. Again, I’d like someone to include the date and time and where this quote comes from. We all understand that in 1993 the citizens of this city voted to tax themselves with a $2 million GO Bond to build the Kedron Aquatic Center. They did that because they believed it would be an amenity that would enhance the city and bring up home values and that’s what they wanted. To come back and imply that the Kedron bubble sells homes--there might be a correlation there but I never said that. I dont’ want to associate these quotes to any one person, either in the public or to any one elected official, but in election season I know lots of things come up. A lot of things are said and the citizens have to be aware and take politicians statements for what they’re worth.”
However, Imker’s statements weren’t going to be taken quietly. Haddix snapped back with his replies and then the argument continued.
“He was referring to me, obviously. What a ‘duh’ moment! I was on the dais and I heard it all. I don’t care. You keep saying retraction, retraction, retraction. This is the reason election year politics don’t belong on the dais. If you’ve got a problem with it, write the paper, put it out in the public, but no, you have to do it from the dais.
Haddix told Imker he wasn’t responsible for the article’s content.
“I didn’t write that. Not this guy. Not me. You do have a bad habit of trying to spin history and this is the reason we don’t need these types of disagreements on the dais - it turns into a pointless argument that is contrary to purpose of the council meeting. If you have a problem with me, write a letter to the editor. Keep it off the dais.
“Just because you can’t find your exact quote in the minutes somewhere, doesn’t mean you didn’t say it. It’s bugged me for four years- the say one thing one day, and say another thing another day. It drives me up the wall. This is a council meeting. Can we keep the division between newspapers and the purpose of the council meetings separate and move on?”
“Not yet,” said Imker, not willing to let the subject go. “I don’t hide behind my typewriter blogging all these quotes that you now admit that you said. I bring it out in the public. If you want to accuse me of saying the Kedron bubble sells homes or say to others on the dais that I always vote for the low bids, don’t hide behind the typewriter blogging these things. That’s the most inappropriate thing the leader of a city should do. They should say to the citizens ‘if you want a question answers, email me on the city email, identify yourself and I will respond.” With that response you can write your letter to the editor regarding that communication. Don’t hide behind a blogging typewriter. That’s the worst thing you could do.
“The citizens understand that. I want to have face to face discussions, but I can’t do that with somebody hiding behind the typewriter.”
Haddix said the discussion was ‘going down a bad path and I don’t want to go down it. I started to talk about budget books over the head but...” Haddix was referring to an incident several years ago when Imker allegedly held the budget book over his head to make a point. Can we move on?”
“Thank you for bringing that up. It reminds the citizens of what I’m trying to point out. That we have such narrow-minded, narrow-focused people who can’t see the big picture. That was the point of that whole demonstration and every time you bring that up you are reflecting exactly what I was trying to point out, on you.”
“That,” said Haddix, “isn’t even worth a comment.”