Johns Creek City Council hires lawyers to investigate mayor

Johns Creek launches investigation against mayor

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker is under investigation for allegedly leaking information from closed City Council sessions. The City Council voted this week to hire an outside law firm to look into the mayor’s conduct over the past several years relating to sharing privileged information discussed in executive sessions.

Bodker, the city’s first and only mayor since incorporation in 2006, said the investigation is politically motivated and a waste of taxpayer money. Bodker is up for re-election this fall. He has never been opposed for the seat.

The city of Dunwoody launched a similar investigation into information leaks last year. That probe rang up costs of close to $50,000.

“It really doesn’t matter what they’re investigating, because my motivation for everything I do is the same, the well-being of the citizens and businesses of Johns Creek,” Bodker said.

Georgia law allows governing bodies to convene closed sessions only to discuss limited topics, such as personnel matters, litigation and real estate.

Rumblings of an investigation began in March when Councilman Randall Johnson passed a measure to hire an outside attorney to study state and city laws concerning leaked information from closed sessions. The city paid $4,000 for that report.

If found in violation, the mayor could be removed from office by a vote of five of the six City Council members.

Monday’s vote for the investigation was 5-0, with Councilwoman Kelly Stewart absent. Stewart was the only council member to question the initial probe last March and could not be reached Wednesday.

Johnson said he initiated the action because he senses a pattern of what he suspects are infractions by the mayor.

“There’s been a progression, from private discussions of ‘You shouldn’t do that’ to public meetings where it was discussed,” he said. “I just felt enough is enough.”

The city is hiring the Decatur firm of Wilson, Morton and Downs, the same firm that investigated the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal and the Dunwoody incident. Attorney Bob Wilson said the firm will charge the city a reduced rate of $185 an hour, down from the regular $400 price.

Johnson said he didn’t make the decision lightly, has no aspirations to be mayor and hasn’t even decided to run for re-election this fall.

This is not the first run-in between the mayor and council.

In 2011, the council reduced the mayor’s power relating to the appointment of a city manager and city attorney. One year later, council members publicly chastised Bodker for talking with a new council member about a bridge project over the Chattahoochee River that had already been discussed and voted down three times.

Bodker said he thinks the conflict arises from the natural tension that occurs between the executive and the legislative branch.

“But it gets magnified by the fact that I’m a very forward-thinking, go-getting, strong-personality mayor,” he said. “I think that’s what the citizens wanted in electing and re-electing me.”

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