Johns Creek council members clash again over investigation

Stewart says council colluded before vote

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Another Johns Creek City Council meeting turned ugly Monday night when Councilwoman Kelly Stewart began questioning City Manager John Kachmar about when he first contacted the investigator, Decatur attorney Robert Wilson, about hiring him.

From there, it became an acrimonious verbal slugfest among Stewart, Councilman Randall Johnson and Councilwoman Karen Richardson. All three are up for re-election this November.

Stewart asked Kachmar who told him to contact Wilson on the afternoon of June 17 when the vote to initiate the investigation did not come until late that evening in a City Council executive session.

At first, Kachmar denied talking to Wilson before the vote, telling Stewart her “timeline was wrong.”

When he was told that it was Wilson who said he was first contacted on Monday afternoon, Kachmar said that was simply to find out if he would be available and what his fees were at the request of council.

“I am asked to look into matters and provide information for them,” Kachmar said.

That led Stewart to ask who specifically wanted that information before the meeting and the vote. Kachmar said it was all five members of council. (Bev Miller, who has resigned her council seat to run for mayor, was still a member at that time.)

Stewart got angry and accused the other members of colluding about the investigation before a vote had ever been taken.

“Do you believe all five asked the city manager to look for a lawyer on the same day?” she asked.

That was when Stewart brought up a state ethics investigation against Johnson.

Johnson said that happened when documents he had to file were not accepted by the state’s computer and that he has filed for verification.

“I couldn’t log on [the state’s site], so I sent a fax,” he said.

Stewart then said she is trying to get the latest invoice from the investigator, but said she is getting the “runaround” from the city for the August invoice. The city has received two invoices from Wilson Morton and Downs. One is for $12,237 dated Aug. 08, 2013, and one is dated Sept. 6, 2013, for $24,237.

“The reason the investigation is getting expensive is the cost goes up every day because the mayor refuses to turn over documents to us,” Johnson said. “It is disingenuous to accuse us of running up the costs when it is the mayor who is delaying things.”

Stewart said the investigation is on a fishing expedition asking for phone records going back seven years and wanting copies of leases. But Johnson said Stewart had it backwards.

“That is not where the investigation began. That is where it has been led after talking to witnesses. The witness list is up to 52 now,” Johnson said.

When Stewart complained, Johnson told her there were FBI investigations and the GBI was involved, but she could find no evidence of that.

Johnson also said there were criminal charges including “gratuities violations” (reductions on his leases) and interfering with city contract negotiations.

Johnson later said the contract in question concerned the one with Rural Metro Ambulance. He also said he did not have any details about that.

When the arguments circled around to the original question of who told the city manager to get an investigator involved, Johnson answered it.

“We ask staff to get us the information all the time. That’s what we do,” he said.