Tags: Community & Outreach, Government & News & Crime
October 23, 2013JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – In an apparent hurry to release something on the investigation on Mayor Mike Bodker, the Johns Creek City Council released an "interim" report on the investigation's findings at the Monday night City Council meeting.
It had been preceded by lengthy citizen comments from Bodker supporters who suspected the report would be released that night as it was the last council meeting before elections. They say that was the intention of council all along and the reason why the incomplete "interim report" has been timed to have maximum impact just before the election.
Members of the City Council who called for the report blame Bodker's "foot-dragging" in releasing information.
Attorney Robert Wilson had been hired in June to investigate what Councilmembers Bev Miller, Randall Johnson, Karen Richardson, Ivan Figueroa and Brad Raffensperger called certain allegations made against the mayor.
The three strongest allegations in the report laid out the case for:
• Accepting a benefit from a developer and later voting on a zoning case involving the developer (which was unanimously approved) rather than recusing himself from voting as required under the ethics code.
• Violating the confidentiality of the executive session by discussing a land purchase before the council while discussions were ongoing with the owner of the land, including details of the city's appraisal of the land.
• Contravening council's direct instructions that no one on council contact the city of Roswell with council's plans to hold a demonstration at Brumbelow Road and Nesbit Ferry Road in concert with a threat to sue the city of Roswell to compel that city to put a traffic signal at that intersection.
The 27-page report in large print and double-spaced, goes on to relate other incidents of misbehavior that include asking a Fulton County police officer to confront an alleged bully on a county school bus and dissuade the boy, an elementary school student, to leave another child alone. The report says the mayor did not go to school authorities about the matter, but instead wanted to have the officer "scare" the boy.
The bus driver never let the officer on the bus, and the school principal intervened.
Another intervention by the mayor alleged in the report stated that members of the Atlanta Athletic Club, including then House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter, complained to the mayor that the AAC was being targeted by officers for DUI stops. Bodker allegedly asked the city manager to set up a meeting with himself, members of the AAC and the police chief. Instead, City Manager John Kachmar and the city attorney met with the incoming AAC president and assured the AAC they were not being targeted.
Other allegations are mentioned, but only three appeared to form the real meat of the investigation, which are offered as the report's "conclusions."
Bodker, who only received a copy of the report at the meeting, said while he had not yet had time to read all of its allegations, he wanted to say as to the three most serious ones – that he accepted a gratuity from a developer, that he violated confidentiality laws with respect to a land deal and the Brumbelow Road affair – are "baseless."
The report spends nearly six pages chastising the mayor for being uncooperative and refusing to hand over phone records and lease agreements that would have speeded up the investigation and saved time and especially money. That was why the City Council granted Wilson subpoena authority.
Bodker said he and his attorney welcomed a subpoena for his records, because that would get him and the investigator before a judge to decide whether these allegations and the investigation would pass a judge's scrutiny.
"We wanted to get in front of a judge. If they really wanted those records, why did they never bring forward the subpoena? Because they didn't want to see the judge," Bodker said in an interview after the council meeting.
"They never served it, and that's the reason why."
Likewise, Wilson made the case that had the mayor turned over phone records during critical times when the council had been in executive session, they well could have been the instrument to show he had not been in telephone contact with people he shouldn't have been.
Ultimately, Bodker said he didn't cooperate because the entire investigation had been the centerpiece of a political effort to unseat him.
"Look at the timing of everything [councilmembers did]. They don't decide to bring this investigation forward until the summer before the election – when many of these allegations occurred years ago," Bodker said.
"At the last minute, my opponent resigns to qualify to run against me. Then this subpoena is requested dramatically for records going back years, but they never invoke it. Why not? Now they have run up this tremendous amount of money for the investigation, and I am blamed for not handing over my personal records.
"Now this interim report, which outlines more allegations but are not complete, is released just in time to do the maximum damage before the election," Bodker said.
The events mirror what Bodker had been saying would happen for months – that a member of council would run against him – and that after the investigation was begun that it would go until the 11th hour before the election.
But Wilson in his report casts the blame for the slowdown of the investigation squarely on Bodker. Despite being told personal records would be redacted to protect personal information, the mayor's reluctance to release information that could possibly exonerate him were the chief cause of the delays.
But Wilson never satisfactorily explains why he never used the subpoena power he so publicly sought that would have pre-empted those delays.
Executive Editor, Appen Media.