JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Councilwoman Kelly Stewart has called for City Manager John Kachmar to step down after he was involved in an altercation with two city residents after the Oct. 7 City Council meeting.
Stewart called a press conference Oct. 10 in front of City Hall to denounce what she called “an inexcusable act of verbal assault” by the city manager. Witnesses to the event were on hand to support her in calling for Kachmar to step down.
“Mr. Kachmar, while admitting to the use of such profane and abusive language and without apology, threatened innocent citizens who were exercising their right to free speech,” Stewart said. “These victims were not only verbally assaulted, but feared for their physical safety from his threats.”
Stewart said such behavior cannot be excused, tolerated or condoned.
“This is not a he-said, she-said case. Rather this is a case of rage, intimidation and bullying by the top city employee who has serious anger management issues,” she said.
This behavior would not be tolerated in any city employee, she added.
Marc Endres, longtime observer and critic of the City Council, said he agreed with Stewart’s call.
“He inserted himself into a private conversation and got involved [an altercation]. If the city fails to suspend the city manager or take some other strong action to hold him accountable, then it means they will have set a standard of behavior for all police, fire and other city employees,” said Endres.
Other members of the City Council have been reluctant to take any action about the incident. “We would not ask anything based on just an allegation,” Councilman Randall Johnson said. “He is an employee and entitled to due process. It would be unjust to do so because of political grandstanding by [Mayor Mike] Bodker and his supporters.”
In any employee situation there must be an investigation, he said.
“It puts citizens and employees at risk to not allow due process. Let the facts speak for themselves,” Johnson said.
Asked if he were shocked by the city manager apparently trying to intimidate city residents after a meeting, Johnson had no answer.
“I don’t know how to respond to that. It’s sad that Mike Bodker and his supporters are trying to make political hay out of this. It’s not something typical of a city mayor,” Johnson said.
David Kornbluh is president of the Johns Creek Community Association and a frequent attendee of Johns Creek City Council meetings. He was in the parking lot Oct. 7 and witnessed the altercation. He did not agree with Johnson’s assessment.
“Anyone who would condone that kind of treatment of citizens by a city employee goes against everything we wanted to do when we created this city,” Kornbluh said. “This circus-like atmosphere in the city breaks my heart.”
But other councilmembers seemed to share Johnson’s wait-and-see attitude.
Councilman Brad Raffensperger was a witness to the affair in the parking lot. But he refused to say whether Kachmar’s behavior was below the standards of behavior of the city.
“I will have to wait and see the police report,” he said.
In response to an email, Councilman Ivan Figueroa wrote that this is “a police matter, which is outside the bounds of the council.”
“It is also a personnel matter, and until all the facts are known, it would be premature to comment. Councilmember Stewart’s actions sound to me to be more of her personal attack [on] the city manager, which she began last Monday [at City Council]. Stewart’s comments so soon after the incident, without any investigation, are surprising since she is an executive that deals with personnel issues,” he said.