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Johns Creek Council overrides Mayor's waiver veto

Stewart backs mayor on privilege

August 06, 2013
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Once again Councilwoman Kelly Stewart has broken ranks with the rest of the City Council to support Mayor Mike Bodker's veto of the council's resolution to waive attorney-client privilege in the ongoing investigation of allegations against the mayor.

She also has stated she does not support the mayor's investigation, and she brought forward a resolution to amend the ethics code (see related story) that would have allowed the members of city boards and commissions to weigh in on public issues – such as the mayor's investigation – as a regular citizen. As it is, they must resign their position to "reclaim" the right to speak out. None of this has endeared Stewart to the other five council members.

"With the questions raised by the legal opinion the mayor's attorney has raised, I have withdrawn my support of the waiver until we get an independent opinion," Stewart said.

It turns out, the city already had its independent opinion. When the mayor sought out a law firm for advice on the effect of a waiver of attorney-client privilege, it was at the recommendation of City Attorney Bill Riley, and the cost is on the city's nickel as well. The Buford law firm of Carothers and Mitchell LLC was the one that provided the recommendation that the waiver be given some scope as to time and subject matter. Without that, the attorneys said the city could be exposed to some danger that it is giving up all its attorney-client privilege.

The reason for the waiver is to allow the city attorneys to talk freely with the council's investigator, Robert Wilson.

At the Aug. 5 City Council meeting, Stewart said reading the mayor's veto and its warning that an open-ended waiver with no restrictions and no specified dates could backfire against the city's interests.

"What concerns me most is we don't know what we're waiving here. This is just a blanket waiver that could lead where I don't know. So that was one thing that bothered me about this," Stewart said.

Wilson answered the council's questions on the veto saying that it was only natural that another lawyer would voice concerns, but that there is no case law cited because none exists.

"This a case where the client, that is the city, is asking one set of lawyers to talk to its other lawyers. They all a work for the same client," Wilson said.

Clients of the same firm even are reluctant to discuss their cases among themselves. The waiver was more for their peace of mind than any real legal requirement for the waiver.

"Attorneys stand behind a curtain with their client. We are another set of attorneys standing behind the same curtain on the same side. There is nothing in the waiver that lets anyone else behind that curtain," he said.

Bodker said he held to the other attorney's opinion, and given the potential risk to the city, the waiver could have been made more specific and still accomplished the council's goals.

"I never said they shouldn't talk to anyone that might be involved in the investigation. I am confident they will not find anything. But I do think this has the potential risk as stated from an independent legal source. I think that they could find a more secure way to perform their work in a way that does not have risk or waste tax dollars in the process," Bodker said.

Executive Editor, Appen Media.
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Tags: Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    August 06, 2013 | 05:29 PM

    Good! Now get on with the investigation.

    After watching the Atlanta news about all kinds of unethical and criminal goings on for the past few months, any unethical behavior needs checking into.

    Johns Creek taxpayer and homeowner
    Johns Creek
  2. report print email
    Loss of the big picture
    August 06, 2013 | 10:28 PM

    It is clear that we are losing sight of the forest for all the legalese.

    An observer
    Johns Creek
  3. report print email
    Response to "Good!"
    August 09, 2013 | 10:31 PM

    There is a huge difference between an investigation conducted by an actual government agency charged with such matters as is happening in DeKalb and Clayton Counties. These investigations were carried out by various government agencies such as GBI or police. The fact agencies along these lines have not been brought in but rather a private law firm working directly at the direction of the city council smells to high heaven.

    If something legitimately bad has been done by the mayor that might legitimately cause his removal from office why wasn't the GBI brought in? Instead they hired a private law firm because the council suspects or thinks something MAY have happened that they cannot even explain????

    This reminds me of Nancy Pelosi's statement about the healthcare law. That we had to pass it to find out what was in it. Same thing here it appears. We have to have an investigation by a non governmental entity to see if they can find something to complain about and get rid of a political opponent. Pretty neat trick.

    This kind of private investigation is similar to when the Atlanta School Board brought in a private "blue ribbon panel" to do the investigating on the CRCT cheating scandal and amazingly found no cheating and reported the same to their bosses at the school board who did not want a problem found anyway. Eventually Governor Deal had to order a real investigation. In this case it appears that our city council is using taxpayer dollars for a witch hunt.

    I expect the private law firm will find something to make a fuss about to make their client who pays its fee (ie Johns Creek City Council) happy and not embarrassed. Whether whatever they find it truly a reason to remove the mayor from office remains to be seen but the city council (good for them) gets to be judge and jury.

    If I was in politics I would like this arrangement too. Use taxpayer money for a non criminal investigation of a political opponent and then I get to decide if the findings are strong enough to get rid of my enemy! If the findings are generally minor I am sure the council will decide that as a matter of principal that the mayor has to go anyway and conveniently right before an election!

  4. report print email
    August 11, 2013 | 08:06 PM

    Robert, how do you know that this isn't a criminal investigation? The city council is hiring a law firm to check this matter out. They are not the judge and jury! As for "finding something to make the council happy" - what kind of malarkey is that? The law firm can't just make "charges" up!

    I am glad that this is coming out BEFORE the election. We, property owners, have a right to know if our mayor is doing something illegal or unethical! Don't you agree?

    I, personally, believe that there needs to be term limits on mayors, so I won't be voting for Bodker.

    Johns Creek
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