Johns Creek Council members shed light on mayoral charges

Answer critics’charges of secrecy

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- At the Aug. 5 City Council meeting some nine citizens – many supporters of Mayor Mike Bodker – chastised the City Council for its reluctance to come forward with some tangible allegations against the mayor.

After the council meeting, those detractors got what they asked for.

Resident Bob Frame said the investigation was tainting the image of Johns Creek, while Norman Board came forward to say he was “frustrated at being kept in the dark” by council.

“If we had some idea of what he’s done, we could get some idea that the money we’re spending is worth it,” Board said.

One resident told the council to “put up or shut up.” Resident Don Hiltner said it appeared council “was trying to micromanage the mayor.”

After weeks of pressure to be more forthcoming, the council members decided to break their silence.

Councilwoman Karen Richardson said the council had taken on the role of “protectors” of the city during the investigation.

“We find ourselves in a pickle or a quandary because in the years on the board we have become very protective of the community and the perception people have of the city,” Richardson said. “We wanted to handle things quietly rather than disclose things that would be embarrassing to the mayor.

“Perhaps we’ve gone overboard in being protective.”

After the meeting Richardson and Councilwoman Bev Miller held an impromptu press conference in the meeting room to spell out in general terms at least some of the allegations the mayor is facing.

Among the charges under investigation are that the mayor had direct involvement in police affairs and that he bullied staff, even going so far as to threaten their livelihood. Other allegations under investigation are that the mayor may have “crossed the line” in asking favors of people with business in the city.

He is alleged to have pushed forward a personal agenda and personal goals versus the city’s public agenda.

Miller said this all came to a head at the council’s retreat May 10. That is what is driving this investigation before the elections.

“So we got on [the allegations] right away, and now we’re getting beaten up for it,” Miller said. “We thought the potential costs without going forward would be far greater than the costs of not investigating. That’s what we’re afraid of.”

Councilman Randall Johnson said they have been getting many calls of support for the investigation.

Richardson said it was not their intent to make the allegations public, but she felt they had choice given the public voice to know more.

“How can that unsubstantiated information be helpful to those who support the mayor? How can that be helpful to his character, his legacy as a mayor,” she emailed later. “We have been under attack for being silent. Do people really believe that it isn't more prudent, decent and frankly respectful, to allow the investigation to come to a conclusion of fact rather than speculation? I really believed it was the more appropriate path. But I am left asking myself, if even the mayor and his supporters don't want the benefit of a concluded, factual investigation, then who are we protecting?”

Told of the allegations, Bodker said it was hard to respond to general statements.

“But I know I don’t get involved in police matters. I know that I have a great deal of respect for our staff and how great our team is. I even encouraged any member of our team to speak openly about any issue without fear of retribution,” he said. “I don’t believe any of these [allegations] are true.”

Bodker said what disturbs him is the way the council seems to demand strict orthodoxy once they have taken a stance on an issue.

“Many of the actions taken by the council tell a different story to me,” Bodker said. “I think they are not looking out for the best interests of the citizens. They could have handled this investigation that would not be so costly to the city.

“You can look at the way we have treated our neighbors which creates ill-will with neighboring governments. It’s not about whether we’re right, but how we conduct ourselves in the process.”

He said council is potentially abridging free speech because council may not want to hear the message that comes with it.

“It inhibits discourse on issues. It’s the antithesis of why we formed this city. In their world, you can’t advocate. You get nailed for just raising the question,” Bodker said.

This article was published in the Aug. 7 Johns Creek Herald.

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