Yet Riedemann, who faces small business owner Debra Williams in the Nov. 5 election, says he’s learned from his past and believes the taxpayers of Kennesaw can trust him to act responsibly when it comes to the city’s finances.
Riedemann found himself on the losing end of a civil suit in Cobb Superior Court on June 26 when Judge Robert Flournoy found him in breach of contract with a company that had loaned him money.
Riedemann was ordered to pay the company the principal of $295,000, accrued interest of $65,426 and attorney’s fees of $54,063, according to the court order.
“Riedemann and ACP Inc. have been stubbornly litigious, acted in bad faith and have caused plaintiff unnecessary trouble and expense,” according to the complaint.
In its lawsuit against Riedemann and his various companies, such as Ashford Capital Partners Inc., Buywake charged that it loaned Riedemann $400,000 on Jan. 31, 2011.
On Dec. 5, 2012, Buywake notified Riedemann that he was in default and demanded payment, resulting in the lawsuit and subsequent judge’s order.
Riedemann acknowledged the judgment when contacted by the MDJ.
Riedemann said the loan was “to bridge a gap between buying a property and an investor coming in to remove that loan because my business is all investors.”
The investor was impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and didn’t come through, he said.
“At that point in March 2011, he couldn’t go forward due to the tsunami, and I completely understood, told my buddy over there at Buywake, ‘Hey, we’re working on this.’”
Even so, the company filed suit.
Riedemann said he paid back more than $100,000 of the $400,000 loan over the last year or two.
“But with all the interest and attorney’s fees, it’s just over $400,000. He is secured now. We have assets of more than $3 million, but they’re in real estate, so that is basically — he is about to be paid off within the next few months actually because we’re about to sell some property.”
Credit card default
Riedemann ran into trouble with his credit card company in another matter.
A court order shows how Riedemann defaulted on his payments to American Express Bank, FSB.
American Express filed suit in Jan. 2012, charging him with defaulting on his payment. Cobb Superior Court ordered him to pay $52,236, according to court records.
“I took the loss myself rather than my investors on a different deal,” he said. “That was monies that I had to put out on another deal rather than pay my American Express card.”
Riedemann said he agreed to sell his home in 2011 at on Palisades Main in a bank short sale caused, he said, when the housing bubble collapsed.
He has also filed for bankruptcy before.
In 1998 he filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 13 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, saying his student loans and building a new family got the best of him.
“We fought, cried and tried as long as we could to avoid the bankruptcy; but ultimately, we had to make what would be one of the most difficult decisions we’d ever have to make,” he said.
He and his wife did pay back the amount set out by the court trustee, he said.
Despite such financial challenges, Riedemann said taxpayers should trust him in helping to manage the city’s budget.
“My answer would be I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and have learned a lot of things in the process and learned about a lot of things that you wouldn’t do and what you would do in certain scenarios,” he said. “It might sound a little corny, but I kind of feel that this is my doctorate program. I have more hard knocks or more experience that many, many, many people.”
Riedemann said there are controls in place to manage the city’s money, such as the city manager and city’s finance director, although as a council member Riedemann does have input, and a vote, on the city’s budget.
“I know budgets now better than ever before,” he said.
Riedemann said he is the council’s administrative liaison.
“I meet with the city manager and any issues that are needed to be covered through there,” he said. “I’m basically the city hall kind of liaison.”
Riedemann said he is also the liaison to the Kennesaw Development Authority, which he chaired before the council elected him to fill the unexpired term of the late Councilman Bill Thrash earlier this year.
Past dictates future, challenger says Debra Williams, who owns her own public relations and marketing business in the city and serves on the Kennesaw Planning and Zoning Board, said Riedemann’s financial problems were brought to her attention.
“It does bring concern to me as a citizen that someone with a financial background even allows himself to get in that situation,” Williams said. “I don’t know the details of how it took place -- if he actually got the money -- but if they gave him the money and then an investor didn’t come through, is he not supposed to have that money to give back to them? So where did the money go? It is quite a concern to me. My mom and dad always said your past dictates your future. You can learn from it, but it’s a predicator to your future and the decisions that you make at certain times.”
Williams said she wants every voter to be aware of both her and Riedemann’s backgrounds before they go into the voting booth.
“I don’t want anyone to vote for me who doesn’t know my background,” Williams said. “I want them to go into that voting booth and, without a shadow of a doubt, have no hesitation when they punch my name. I want them to know both of us before they go into that booth.”
Councilwoman Chris Welsh, who has endorsed Williams in the race, is also concerned about Riedemann’s background.
“It makes me uncomfortable,” said Welsh. “I was not aware of those things when his name was put in the hat, but it does make me uncomfortable. I think people are allowed to make mistakes and have difficult times. I’ve had my own difficult times, but I think when you end up in a courtroom situation, there’s probably more to it, and it does make me uncomfortable.”
Welsh said while it is considered “bad form” to weigh in on a political race “on your level or lower,” she believes the future of the city is too important for her to remain silent.
“At this point I think the city needs some independent thinkers,” said Welsh, who plans to retire when her term is over in two years to devote more time to her children.
Endorsing Williams was not easy, Welsh said, “because Matt’s daughter and my children are the same age and they go to school together. Matt’s wife I adore. We live in the same neighborhood. It’s a hard thing. I think he’s a good man, I think he’s a good person. I just don’t think he’s the person to lead the city right now.”