JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – A check of the first three months’ invoices from Wilson Morton and Downs, the firm conducting the City Council’s investigation of the mayor, is now up to $67,132 and the meter is still running.
With September’s invoice still to come, the actual bill should be in the $90,000 range.
Attorney Robert Wilson was hired in July to conduct an investigation into Mayor Mike Bodker’s conduct. At the time, the five members of the City Council (Councilwoman Kelly Stewart opposed) said its purpose was to investigate allegations that had come to their attention.
Wilson, who was a prominent investigator in the Atlanta Public Schools investigation, said at the time he agreed to take on the challenge that it was not his job to ascertain if the investigation itself was warranted – he said that was council’s decision – but it is his job to see if there are acts that warrant charges.
“You do an investigation first if you have concerns but don’t quite know if there is a basis for such a claim,” Wilson said.
There has been no little finger-pointing about the eventual cost of the mayoral investigation virtually from the beginning.
Bodker and his supporters say that the whole investigation is baseless and without merit. They say it is politically motived and timed to support former Councilwoman Bev Miller’s bid to unseat Bodker at the polls in November.
“They will have this nice little report to spring before the voters the last week of October to try to turn the election,” Bodker said. “But in my heart I know I have done nothing wrong.”
Councilman Randall Johnson has said it is Bodker who is prolonging the investigation, saying the mayor has refused to cooperate by not turning over his phone records and recent townhome lease records.
“If he were truly interested in preserving the taxpayers’ money, he would have turned over his records right away and let this investigation proceed in an open and transparent manner,” Johnson said.
Bodker responded by saying he would turn over any documents necessary if specific accusations were made. But he said he had no interest in providing them and exposing his private documents to public scrutiny without specific charges to answer.
“The last thing they asked for was show where I got my furniture when I leased my townhome. I can’t imagine what that will tell them,” Bodker said.
Meanwhile, the investigation is expanding. Johnson said the witness list is now at 52. This apparently includes Stewart, who said last week her phone records have been requested by investigators.
“I turned them over. I have nothing to hide,” Stewart said. “The allegations that I contacted [Roswell Mayor] Jere Wood I find preposterous.”
She said Wilson wanted them because it had been reported to him that she had been talking to Wood. Stewart said she did not know why that would even be of interest except to try to connect it with the Brumbelow traffic signal brouhaha last year.
She said she last talked with Wood at the Georgia Municipal Association annual meeting in Savannah in June 2012.
“I am just frustrated that this keeps going on and on,” Stewart said.
Wilson warned the City Council that once he started the investigation, he would follow it where it took him. That means following one lead to another, one interviewee to another and then perhaps doubling back to recheck what someone said when others’ stories didn’t gibe.
No one gets to see the report until it is finished, and it not finished until Wilson says it is.
As for requesting the phone records of Stewart, Wilson said other councilmembers also had been asked for phone record and he had received them.
Wilson too has said he has been frustrated by a lack of cooperation from the mayor, saying that his refusal to turn over documents has delayed the investigation and thus driven up the cost of it.
Michael Cross, Bodker’s attorney in the matter, pointed out that it is his client who is paying for an attorney out of his own pocket, and it is he who suffers the greater financial loss as the investigation continues.
Wilson said he warned council at the beginning that the investigation would take as long as it takes and that he would not sacrifice quality.
“I’m just at the beginning of this,” he said in July. “I can’t see the depth of it or the back of the wall. The one thing I can tell you is you can’t rush it. If you want to know the truth it takes time.”