Two diverging opinions over how the Peachtree City Council handled the resolution of a lawsuit over the pay cut issued to Mayor Don Haddix resulted in a fiery confrontation at Thursday’s City Council meeting.
On one side was Haddix, who re-ignited the issue with a formal statement on the matter [See Page A4], claiming that his fellow council members spent more than $20,000 on the matter including the restitution of his back pay at $2,025.
On the other side was Councilman George Dienhart, who contends that the council did the right thing in settling the lawsuit even though he felt confident the city would prevail.
At one point, Haddix threatened to have Dienhart removed from the meeting. At another, Dienhart attempted to have Haddix overruled by the rest of council.
The confrontation was so distasteful that one resident in the audience, incredulous at the display, used slang in an agricultural reference to bovine fecal matter.
The angry dispute broiled after Haddix had seemingly ended his statement. Dienhart spoke up, saying it was ironic that the mayor minutes before had asked everyone to refrain from campaigning at City Council meetings.
A brief shouting match commenced between the two at that point, with Haddix insisting he had not yet yielded the floor to Dienhart and furthermore insisted that his statement was not a “campaign speech.”
As Dienhart began to speak again, Haddix banged the gavel and declared Dienhart out of order. Dienhart responded by making a motion to “replace the chair” which was seconded by Councilman Eric Imker and later amended to “vote on a ruling of the chair.”
Haddix countered that the motion was out of order because Dienhart did not have the floor at the time he made the motion. The mayor then proceeded to say he had warned council members about decorum issues before, and after Dienhart tried to get a word in, Haddix banged the gavel again and threatened: “One more time and you’re out the door.”
City Attorney Ted Meeker confirmed that council can appeal the ruling of the chair, and as Imker attempted to speak, he was silenced by Haddix, who chided him to “quit interrupting.” Haddix then cited a city ordinance that he claimed allows him “last say on any issue.”
He then recognized Dienhart formally, and Dienhart said bringing the matter up causes “continued embarrassment to the city.”
The two parried back and forth for a short while in a civil tone as Dienhart noted that he felt defending the lawsuit over the pay cut council issued to Haddix last May would have been too expensive though he felt the city would prevail.
Haddix then stated that he felt he had a right to defend himself, but as far as he was concerned about handling the matter in council meetings, “I am done with it, if everybody else was done with it.”
Imker then said he thought it was unfortunate that council “ended up in another argument” over the matter when he thought it was better to let the dispute go, though he too contemplated bringing up the cost during the meeting.
Council member Kim Learnard, apologizing to Haddix as she broke out in brief laughter, said she felt council was “ready to be done” on the matter as well.
And in a matter of seconds the conversation was over and Haddix turned to the next item on the agenda.