JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – City Manager John Kachmar will evidently end his stormy career with Johns Creek in a pattern that should be quite familiar to him: He will step down amid political turmoil in return for a settlement to go away.
The City Council voted 4-2 Monday night to offer Kachmar a settlement of six months’ salary ($138,000) to voluntarily resign thus avoiding a possible lawsuit. If he accepts the settlement, it will end yet another such chapter in what has been a checkered career of government service in which he has left under a cloud.
Council had concluded a long night of new business around 10:30 p.m. and then retired for an executive session for an “employee matter.” They returned just as the BCS National Championship game was concluding to announce their decision to allow Kachmar to voluntarily resign with a settlement in return for an agreement that he would not pursue a lawsuit against the city.
Council members have said Kachmar was threatening a multimillion-dollar lawsuit if he were fired alleging such a dismissal would be retribution for his testimony against Mayor Mike Bodker during this past summer’s investigation.
Councilmembers said they did not believe he had grounds for such a lawsuit based on what Councilman Brad Raffensperger called his “deplorable” behavior. However, the risk of what a jury would do and the cost of the city’s defense in such a lawsuit outweighed the cost of the settlement.
Councilwomen Kelly Stewart and Cori Davenport voted against offering Kachmar any settlement at all, saying they could not support caving in to the threat of a lawsuit.
Kachmar did not remain in the building for the council’s announcement and could not be reached for comment before deadline.
Stewart voted against the settlement saying she could not support “giving [Kachmar] one red cent” in settlement of his separation.
“This man deserves not one penny. He has been poison to this city, and I won’t support [the settlement]. This is about principle. People did not deserve to be treated the way they were by him.
“I don’t want another city to go through what we have had to go through. His actions don’t deserve any [settlement] for his services,” said Stewart, who was visibly emotional and upset.
Davenport did not speak about it during the session, but after the meeting said she could not support the settlement offer because of her campaign pledge. Like Stewart, Davenport was wiping her eyes at the thought of paying Kachmar.
“I said I wouldn’t stand for that treatment of our citizens,” Davenport said.
They referred to an incident after a September meeting in which Kachmar verbally assaulted two citizens, one of whom had complained of the lack of cooperation from the city in her efforts to keep abreast of the proposed roundabout on Sargent Road.
After verbally confronting her and calling her “a liar,” he then confronted a neighbor who spoke up in her defense, with whom Kachmar was even more verbally abusive.
The majority of the council refused to take any action at the time against Kachmar, saying it was a police matter since one of the victims filed an assault charge. After the Fulton D.A. declined to take action on the assault charge, Kachmar was admonished by the old council “not to do it again.”
A new City Council was elected, with newcomers Lenny Zaprowski and Davenport. Zaprowski came down on the side of a negotiated settlement with Kachmar.
“This man deserves to be fired,” said Zaprowski. “But our city is at risk. I don’t want to be bullied, and I think we would win [in court].”
But there is the risk of perhaps losing the case in a jury verdict and that is a risk Zaprowski said he did not want take.
“The goal is to get the man out of office. This has been a tough decision on the first night of the job,” Zaprowski said.
Mayor Mike Bodker, the target of the failed investigation, would seem likely to want to press for a dismissal without compensation also. Enmity between the two was a badly kept secret for years.
However Bodker said he did not want the city to be “looking over its shoulder” for the next few years if a lawsuit continued to drag on.
“I’m willing to hold my nose,” Bodker said. “What tipped the scales for me was knowing the city would not be able to move forward until the matter is behind us. This to me was the best way to go forward for the city.”