30-day deadline on PTC mayor’s threatened lawsuit expires

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The 30-day deadline for the Peachtree City Council to restore the salary of Mayor Don Haddix has passed.

Since the filing of a legal claim a month ago, council has taken no official action to restore Haddix’s pay, which council cut in May from $750 a month to under $75 a month. The pay cut was issued, council members said, to recoup nearly $10,000 in legal fees the city paid to litigate and settle a libel lawsuit filed against Haddix by former Mayor Harold Logsdon.

Council continued the reduced pay as a part of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Because Haddix’s pay hasn’t been restored, the mayor’s next step may be to file a lawsuit against his fellow city council members to restore his full salary.

The city’s risk management agency has denied coverage for the lawsuit, meaning that any legal fees incurred in a potential lawsuit will be borne in full by the taxpayers. In a letter to council, the agency noted that it does not cover cases arising from “any claim for salaries, wages or employment benefits.”

In the notice letter to the city that established the 30-day deadline, Haddix’s attorney, former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers, noted that the city charter requires the salary of mayor and council to be set during the previous term of mayor and council. Council’s solution to get around that language was to pass the pay cut as a “budget adjustment.”

Bowers also called the council action a bill of attainder, a term dating from the earliest days of the republic. It refers to legislative action in which the governing body — in this case, the City Council — acts as complainant, prosecutor, judge and jury in imposing a financial penalty on a named individual or groups of individuals.

The issue of the city paying for Haddix’s legal fees in the libel case was brought about because the risk management agency by contract covered the cost of the legal charges and settlement. The agency ruled that since the alleged libelous statement was contained in an email Haddix sent to a city employee, it was an official act Haddix undertook as mayor.

The risk management agency had initially denied Haddix coverage in the libel lawsuit, which caused Haddix to hire his own personal attorney in the case. Council members later objected to the city having to pay for Haddix’s legal fees, including the settlement with Logsdon.