JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Residents may wonder what it might cost them to speak their minds at a City Council public comment section, but Chris Cupit, whose family owns Rivermont Country Club, says he knows how much it cost him when he spoke to at the Oct. 22 City Council meeting – about $15,000.
CH2M Hill, the company that handles much of the outsourcing of jobs for Johns Creek, has cancelled the annual Christmas party for city employees and CH2M Hill employees who work for the city. Rivermont had hosted the party for eight years in a row and CH2M Hill had hosted the Christmas party. The company had put down a $5,000 deposit for this year.
They said the reason for the sudden change is employees had been asking a change of venue for the party.
Cubit stood up at the council meeting to add his concerns about the inappropriate behavior of City Manager John Kachmar and Councilman Randall Johnson. He related his experiences in his personal dealings with City Manager John Kachmar.
Weeks before the incident involving Kachmar in an altercation with two citizens critical of the city’s lack of response to information requests, Cupit said he contacted Kachmar to help in his attempts to get a wait staffer a pouring license to work in the country club’s dining room. She had a misdemeanor arrest as a teenager that was preventing her from obtaining a license to serve in the dining room.
“She is a great young woman who is going to school and needs a job. She’s really turned her life around,” Cupit said.
Cupit said he his phone calls went unreturned, but Kachmar did return a letter requesting a phone interview. In two discussions with Kachmar, he said he was inappropriately profane and was unprofessional in handling what Cupit thought was a reasonable request.
Cupit also said Johnson, whom he had supported in past elections, not only asked Cupit to support him this year but to report any information he had about the mayor to Robert Wilson, the attorney heading up the council’s investigation, and gave him Wilson’s card.
“I told Randall I didn’t want to get involved in anything political. I also told him that I wasn’t going to support him this year. I didn’t like this investigation, and I have known Lenny Zaprowski [Johnson’s opponent for the council seat] for many years and would vote for him too.”
Two days after he spoke at the council meeting, Cupit received an email from Wayne P. Wright, program director at CH2M HILL, confirming the company was canceling the party.
“The reason we are cancelling 52 days in advance is that many staff have told us they will not participate in an event held at your facility. We have had complaints for the past two years because we have held the party at the same venue over and over again. The staff has made it clear that we need to move to a different location,” Wright wrote.
He then asked for the return of the CH2M Hill $5,000 deposit paid in September to reserve Saturday night.
Asked if CH2M Hill was changing the venue because of the way Cupit spoke out at council, Wright said no.
“We’ve had a number of folks over the years complain that we go to the same place every year. So we just decided to mix it up a bit,” Wright said in a phone interview.
Asked if it wasn’t too coincidental that the cancellation came on the heels of his speaking out, Wright said his email explained the rationale.
Wright was asked if complaints were so bad, why re-book this year and put down a deposit? Wright said they heard additional complaints from employees after booking the venue and decided to change it.
“We are asking for our deposit back because he still has time to book the weekend,” Wright said.
Cupit said it is quite late to book the date, since most event planners book months in advance. He hasn’t decided whether to return the deposit as requested.
“I am just very disappointed about all of this. I never wanted to get involved in politics at all. We have lived here for 41 years, and I was honored to serve on the committee to form Johns Creek. I wanted to be part of the new city.
“Now it seems you can’t even speak up if you feel you have to without retaliation.”