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Johns Creek Mayor attacks investigation criticizing his conduct in office

9:11 AM, Oct 23, 2013   |    comments
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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- The City of Johns Creek on Monday released an interim report on the investigation into Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker. 

RELATED: Investigation into Johns Creek Mayor getting costly

In the 28-page interim report prepared, at the request of the City Council, by former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson of the law firm of Morton, Wilson and Downs, Bodker was found to be in violation of state "law, ethics and charter." 

According to Wilson's report:  

  • "Mayor Bodker accepted a benefit from a developer, and he had a conflict of interest when he voted on at least one rezoning matter for that developer when it came before City Council.
  • Mayor Bodker violated the Executive Session Confidentiality by disclosing a landowner details about an executive session in which the Council was discussing the potential purchase of land from that landowners.
  • Mayor Bodker acted contrary to the directive of Council and exceeded his authority as Mayor in contacting the mayor of a neighboring city concerning matters that the Council had unanimously agreed (including the Mayor himself) to keep confidential during an executive session over potential litigation."

Representatives from Morton, Wilson and Downs said they interviewed 40 people during this investigation, including the Mayor.

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Talk about hardball politics:

Forget Washington for a moment.

You don't have to go any further than the City of Johns Creek, in north Fulton County, to see how rough it can be.

The feud between the Mayor and City Council is now so bitter and so raw, some are calling it "Johns Creek madness."

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker is seeking a third term on election day in two weeks. His challenger is the former Mayor Pro Tem, Bev Miller, who resigned to run against Bodker.

And Tuesday night, as Bodker was meeting with supporters, 11Alive's Jon Shirek asked him, point-blank, about the latest accusations against him. The accusations are included in a potentially-scathing interim report summarizing the results, so far, of an investigation, commissioned by the City Council, about Bodker's conduct in office.

The interim report was released Monday.

The City Council investigation is being conducted by former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson, and it goes all the way back to the beginning of Bodker's first term to try to show that Bodker has repeatedly exceeded his authority, violated council confidentiality, and had conflicts of interest.

The report points out, for example, that once Bodker even asked a police officer to go to his godson's elementary school for a very personal reason, to confront a boy who was supposedly bullying his godson, and then to scare him.

"My godson was getting bullied," Bodker said, "and he was getting bullied for quite a while, and I felt that it was important to stop the bullying, at least do anything I could to prevent that, and I would have done it for any child.... Would I do it differently today? Absolutely. I mean I think I learned very quickly that that was probably not the way to go about it."

And there are more serious accusations in the interim report against Bodker.

It says Bodker received reduced rent on his house, and a free, one-week beach vacation, from his landlord. His landlord was one of Bodker's campaign contributors, and the landlord was also a developer trying to get the City Council to rezone some property.

Shirek:   "Do you acknowledge or agree that there's at least an appearance of a conflict of interest if you're accepting benefits from a developer who has business before the City Council?"

Bodker:   "I agree that anyone can think anything about anything."

Shirek:   "Well, is it a conflict of interest?"

Bodker:   "No, it's not a conflict of interest unless it actually impacts the way you vote."

Wilson disagrees.

"When you start taking gratuities and then voting on matters that create a conflict for you, I think that's very serious," Wilson said in an interview with 11Alive News Tuesday, "and it goes to the very underpinnings of our government."

But Bodker insisted that his documents prove he did not get a break on his rent, but paid market rates.

The report also accuses Bodker of violating City Council Executive Session confidentiality -- once, possibly tipping off the Mayor of neighboring Roswell, Jere Wood, about a potential lawsuit that Johns Creek was thinking about filing against Roswell over a long-running dispute between the two cities.

Shirek:   "The accusation is that you agreed with the Council that you would not go to the Mayor and talk to him about this, but then you did."

Bodker:   "Well, the Mayor came to me."

Shirek:   "But you talked to him about it anyway?"

Bodker:   "You can't exactly ignore your fellow Mayor if you want to maintain relations."

Shirek:   "But you do if the council says, 'Don't talk to him.'"

Bodker:   "I said to him, 'Jere, I can't talk to you about this.' That was the conversation."

Both Mayors insist no secrets were conveyed.

Mayor Bodker said his opponents launched the investigation and timed the release of the interim report to try to discredit him two weeks before the election.

The investigator, Bob Wilson, said the investigation could have wrapped up weeks ago if Bodker had cooperated.

"The mayor's done everything he can to delay this investigation and to keep it from becoming final." Wilson said. "He has withheld information and documents from us that he told us that he would produce."

Wilson has been seeking Bodker's cell phone records, for example.

Bodker has been insisting that since it is his personal phone which he also uses for city business, Wilson has a right to see only records of official calls, not personal calls.

Bodker wants to take that dispute about the phone records to a judge, and he believes a judge would agree with him.

Bodker:   "Bob [Wilson] is not willing to go before a judge and settle it."

Shirek:   "So you want [Wilson] to subpeona the records?"

Bodker:   "I absolutely want him to subpoena the records, not because I want the records subpoenaed, but because I want to have the opportunity to get the only way that I'm going to get a fair arbiter here, and that's in front of a judge in a court of law."

So, Bodker said it's Wilson who has stalled on issuing subpoenas and on moving ahead with the fact-finding.

"We're talking about my personal cell phone," Bodker said. "To give you an example, I believe right now I'm averaging about 5,000 minutes per month on my personal cell phone. So at any given time, even if I have a few phone calls that are related to the city, the vast majority are not. And when people call me they have an expectation that I'm not announcing that I'm talking to them on the phone, they have some expectation of privacy.... If it's city related, and it's related to this investigation, I'm more than happy to turn it over once I know that my privacy and their privacy's properly protected."

This investigation is far from over -- Wilson and the City Council continue to dig into the Mayor's conduct in office and have not said how much longer the investigation will continue. 

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