Johns Creek Candidates weigh in on city manager’s behavior

Reactions range from ‘shock’ to ‘wait and see’

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Johns Creek City Council has come out with a press release condemning Mayor Mike Bodker and Councilwoman Kelly Stewart for calling for the resignation of City Manager John Kachmar [see the Oct. 17 Herald or log on at northfulton.com] after he got into an altercation with two residents following the Oct. 8 City Council meeting.

In a press release posted on the city’s official website, the four councilmembers, Randall Johnson, Karen Richardson, Ivan Figueroa and Brad Raffensperger, slammed Bodker for “putting the city in jeopardy” for demanding Kachmar’s resignation.

In the release, Johnson is quoted as saying, “In yet another staged attempt to deflect his abuse of power investigation,” Bodker and Stewart’s “unilateral assaults” on Kachmar had put the city at risk of “civil action” by the city manager.

Richardson is quoted as saying, “It is obvious to the four of us, that there is a concerted effort by Bodker, Stewart and their supporters to deflect public attention away from the investigation in the mayor’s alleged corrupt behavior.”

Several of the challengers in the City Council races took a different point of view from those of the council.

Dr. Leonard Zaprowski, who is running for Post 1 against Johnson, said he was “disgusted” by the incident.

“I have known Mr. Bush [one of the two citizens confronted by the city manager] for 20 years. I have always known him to be a man of character,” Zaprowski said. This is not a political thing [on Bush’s part]. I find it a shame that the city is trying to paint him as some kind of troublemaker.”

Zaprowski said he was disturbed that the city would paint the event as if it was the fault of Bush and Christine Johnson, the woman who was also involved.

“There has been a lot of talk about ‘transparency’ and not ‘sweeping things under the rug.’ But I don’t see any transparency from the City Council, and it looks to me as if they are trying to sweep this under the rug,” he said. “The mayor was not even present.

“Their statement seems to me an attempt to shift the blame on the two people who were really the victims. Are we saying if you disagree with the government this is how you can be treated? That is the message the city is sending,” he said.

Bev Miller, who is running against Bodker for mayor, was the lone candidate to appeal for “due process” for the city manager.

“I don’t know what happened, but I would be surprised to see the City Council take any action without having all the facts,” Miller said. “The question that concerns me now is that John gets due process to which he is entitled. The mayor is putting the city at risk of a lawsuit.

“If it comes out that this is all true, then that will be time to have some discourse,” she said.

Cori Davenport, running for Post 4 against Richardson, said she was shocked to hear that the city manager had accosted two residents in the parking lot and used abusive language to them.

“If my CFO had done something like that, I would have to put him on a leave of absence right away. Then after a hearing, he would be fired. Conduct like that is unpardonable,” Davenport said.

Nancy Reinecke, who is running against Richardson and Davenport, said when she was a substitute teacher, swearing was grounds for dismissal.

“I don’t know what the rules are for dismissal for city employees. But I don’t believe our citizens who attend a City Council meeting should be yelled at or sworn at with profanity,” Reinecke said.

“I feel the city has done a poor job of transparency in this affair,” she said. “I would like to know what everyone else wants to know – what is really going on here? What are the charges that are being investigated? Is there a cap on the cost of all this? It should have a finite end to it.

“This is not fiscal responsibility to me,” Reinecke said.

Meanwhile, other reports are surfacing about Kachmar’s anger issues and inability to control his temper or his mouth.

Alpharetta City Manager Bob Regus was moved to write to Kachmar in a Jan. 17 email to refrain from cursing at fellow city managers when they get together monthly to discuss common issues, in this case the Commdex contract for public safety radio net.

“I would appreciate it if you could express yourself with words other than the curse words that were used in the meeting of Jan. 8. I find them offensive … I have found the message that is trying to be delivered can be lost in the delivery of the message itself,” Regus wrote. “Or the focus of a meeting can turn on the behavior of the person cursing …”

In 2000, Kachmar’s temper got him in trouble again. He was accused – and acquitted – of slapping a 14-year-old in a theater while he was county administrator in Beaufort, S.C.

He was charged with assault and battery. The juvenile admitted he and friends were making noise during the movie even after Kachmar and a theater attendant asked the teenagers to be quiet.

The boy claimed his head and shoulders were scratched, but Kachmar said he only tapped the boy on the shoulder. The judge found him not guilty.