City officials have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a local gadfly who wanted to post a sign through the city’s Adopt-A-Spot program that ridiculed a city employee.

The city will pay Joseph Hirsch $551 and allow him to post a sign saying “Reserved for Teacher Parking” at a spot on Ashford Center Parkway nearest to Ashford Dunwoody Road, according to a copy of the settlement agreement approved by Dunwoody City Council on Dec. 10 and provided by the city. The sign makes reference to an earlier disagreement between Hirsch and city officials over parking. The agreement also says the city will pay Hirsch’s lawyers $7,500, the settlement papers say.

“Today is a sad victory,” Hirsch said in a statement emailed Dec. 11. “I think many will say that this was a waste of money and not very fiscally conservative. Others will certainly say that this is a victory for the First and 14th Amendments.

“Dunwoody would be a better city if [it] admitted and rectified city mistakes, rather than doubling down on them. Dunwoody is not an honorable city when it permits abuse of power while damning the citizens. Shame on them.”

Hirsch filed his federal court lawsuit Aug. 13. It claimed the city violated his constitutional rights when a group he headed was not allowed to take part in the city’s Adopt-A-Spot program, through which volunteers clean up locations around the city. As part of the program, the group is allowed to post a sign identifying itself.

Hirsch’s group was called “Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith is an $#%@.”

The city, in its answer to the lawsuit, said it had every right to reject Hirsch’s application. It said his request “presented an abuse of the Adopt-A-Spot program that jeopardizes the program’s continued existence.”

The settlement papers said “the parties acknowledge that this agreement represents a compromise of doubtful and disputed claims and defense, and is not and should not be understood as an admission of liability of any claim or an admission that any claim or defense presented lacks merit.”

The lawsuit appears rooted in a disagreement last summer between Hirsch and the city public works department over the handling of parking during construction work at Dunwoody High School.

The city temporarily provided reserved parking for teachers and construction workers. Hirsch responded by posting in front of his house a sign that said, “Reserved for Joe Hirsch only. Violators will be towed.”

Hirsch’s sign was not allowed.

“Maybe the settlement can be a wake-up call to the city, that there are several employees who either don’t understand the law or deliberately fling their teeth at it,” Hirsch said in his statement. “I refuse to live in a corrupt city.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.