The correction of minutes from a previous City Council meeting is without fail a mundane task that garners a quick motion, second and unanimous approval. Until Thursday night that is. Peachtree City Councilman Eric Imker dragged out the video and audio of the meeting to prove an error, and lobbed criticism at Mayor Don Haddix for using the incorrect information in a recent newspaper column in an effort to discredit him.
The recording from the Aug. 19 meeting made it clear that the city is projected to need a .213 mill property tax increase each year for the next four years. But Haddix in his column a few weeks ago said that a .5 mill increase was needed each year.
At one point, Councilwoman Kim Learnard had city staff display on the projector the budget documents which are available to the public on the city’s website, which showed the projected .213 increase, not the .5 mill increase suggested by Haddix.
“Everything is here in black and white,” Learnard said.
Despite that contention, Haddix and fellow councilman Doug Sturbaum voted against the motion to amend the minutes to fix the inaccuracy.
The “no” votes stunned both Imker and fellow councilwoman Kim Learnard, who joined Councilwoman Vanessa Flesich in approving the minute correction.
“The video was clear it should have been .2 instead of .5, yet you didn’t approve the change,” Imker said.
“After five and a half months,” Sturbaum shot back. “Read your minutes.”
Sturbaum then suggested that council needed to bury the hatchet on the issue since budget talks will begin anew at the council’s March retreat.
“I don’t want to hear it again. We’re closing the debate on this,” Sturbaum said. “Let’s move forward.”
Learnard interjected that council “will absolutely move forward with the truth. And here it is in black and white.”
Haddix, in defending his vote against correcting the minutes, noted that council adopted a millage rate at last year’s meeting, but did not vote on the future millage rates, which were projections calculated by city staff.
Neither Haddix nor Sturbaum disputed that the correction suggested by Imker was inaccurate.
At one point, Learnard specifically asked Haddix if he “wanted to take the opportunity to clarify any past comments,” either spoken or written, about the budget numbers.
“No,” the mayor replied, eliciting a sigh of disapproval from Learnard.
“Are you sure?” Learnard replied, following up by quoting the error in Haddix’s Jan. 19 column as published in The Citizen.
Haddix replied that the projected tax increase is not set in stone.
“It is not an approved budget … All five of us have our different ideas, and our different plans, and plans are always subject to change every year,” Haddix said.
In his presentation outlining the error before the vote, Imker rapped Haddix for not accurately remembering the city’s “most important budgetary decision” of last year.
“What I take exception to regarding this whole miserable issue is the mayor’s obvious repeated use in recent months of that one sentence both verbally and written, when he should have known this is not what I said or advocated,” Imker said.