A political lynching took place at the Peachtree City Council meeting last Thursday.
The Leisure Services Department, frequently called “Recreation,” was eliminated and two prominent recreation managers were shown the door.
The action by council to eliminate the unit was deceptive and shameful. The uncomfortable vote was unanimous with Eric Imker, Kim Learnard, Vanessa Fleisch, Doug Sturbaum and Mayor Don Haddix voting in favor of the proposal.
The council meeting was not well attended because the issue of reorganization was conveniently withheld from the original public meeting notice. The city council clearly did not want to hear from volunteer coaches, soccer moms, league participants and other recreation supporters who would have packed the room to speak in opposition to dismantling the recreation structure.
Secrecy in this instance was a cowardly act and represents an unacceptable disdain toward the citizens who pay the salaries of council members.
The mayor and council who, according to one observer, “couldn’t shine Randy Gaddo’s shoes,” ambushed the citizens of Peachtree City by adopting a surprise reorganization which effectively fired Leisure Services Director Gaddo and Recreation Facilities Manager Scott Christopher.
The plan also dissolved the recreation unit and merged employees and programs into a new Community Services Department. The new entity replaces the existing Community Development Department headed by David Rast.
Mr. Rast, in this writer’s opinion, was humiliated by a demotion to the position of Planning and Zoning Administrator. Council also named Rast interim director of the new department until the position is filled. He is placed in the unfortunate position of having to accept the demotion or apply for a job almost identical to the one he held in the past. David Rast deserved better treatment.
This writer recognizes and understands the need to streamline government and make it more efficient. The massive reorganization was not accompanied by financial notes or performance goals designed to garner acceptance by the community. There was no discussion of the amount of savings involved or the impact on delivery of services.
The proposal showed only a net decrease of one staff position which could have easily been accomplished through attrition.
The reorganization is a sham designed to de-emphasize recreation programs which many citizens believe are integral to the excellent quality of life in Peachtree City.
All three victims of this political lynching are highly effective leaders who served the city with excellence for many years. They were mistreated by Mayor Don Haddix and his band of council followers who are intent on selling or leasing Kedron Fieldhouse, reducing recreation opportunities and transferring the library to the Fayette County Library System.
Council’s rationale for unloading the library is financial. It is an opportunity to reduce expenditures while increasing revenue by leasing the library facility to the county.
The recent disbanding of the Peachtree City Library Commission and last week’s assignment of library operations to the Administrative Services Director are interim steps toward getting rid of the library. The only remaining obstacle is a county commission that won’t take the bait … at least for now.
Terry Garlock made an interesting point about the Gaddo dismissal. His question was: “If the roles of Gaddo and Haddix were reversed, how would it have been handled?” His answer was: “It would have been handled entirely differently and much more properly.”
It is time for radical change in Peachtree City. The City Council has consistently treated staff poorly, demonstrated a pattern of sneakiness and made numerous irrational policy decisions during the past 18 months. Staff morale is at an all-time low, chemistry between council and the public has deteriorated and the vision of Peachtree City is rapidly disappearing.
The shameful action of last Thursday in the name of reorganization and efficiency is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Peachtree City needs a new mayor, council and city manager. It is time for citizens to pick up the broom and make a clean sweep in the next two elections.
The terms of council members Eric Imker and Doug Sturbaum end this year and they will likely be defeated if they choose to run again. The municipal election is on Tuesday, Nov. 8 and candidates may qualify for these two posts between Aug. 29 and Sept. 2.
It is likely several excellent candidates will step up in this time of near crisis. Voters must wait two years to finish the clean sweep unless Mayor Haddix and council members Learnard and Fleisch do the right thing and resign.
The manner in which the reorganization was handled is disgraceful. It will be a benefit to the citizens of Peachtree City if the mayor and City Council follow the lead of Congressman Anthony Weiner and resign. Their resignations would be a blessing because they have lost credibility.
[Scott Bradshaw, a resident of Peachtree City, is a real estate broker and residential real estate developer. He may be contacted at email@example.com.]