Johns Creek official accused of assaulting man after meeting

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

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FULTON COUNTY, Ga. —

Johns Creek police confirm they're investigating allegations City Manager John Kachmar assaulted a citizen after Monday night's city council meeting.

According to an incident report obtained by Channel 2's Mike Petchenik, Gerald Bush told officers he got into a heated argument with Kachmar that ended with Kachmar poking him in the chest.

"Kachmar stopped, approached, and began shouting at him," Bush told investigators in the report. "Bush believes Kachmar was trying to provoke him into a physical altercation."

According to the report, Bush said Kachmar also threatened to call the police to have him locked up and that he used very explicit language during the argument.

Bush declined to comment on the allegations.

Christy Johnson told Petchenik she witnessed the incident and that Bush was standing up for her after Kachmar called her out over comments she'd made to the City Council about a road project affecting her neighborhood. In the report, Bush admits he called Kachmar a derogatory word before Kachmar approached.

"He starts to tell me, loudly and clearly, that I'm a liar," she said. "It was all very shocking and hard to grasp. I didn't think it could get worse, then at that point it just turned terrible."

Johnson wouldn't comment specifically on what she saw, but described it as "inappropriate."

"No person in the city, in the state, should be treated like that by a person in their government," Johnson said.

Witness David Kornbluh told Petchenik, from his vantage point, he didn't see Kachmar touch Bush.

"It was very disturbing," he said. "What I saw was threatening body language, for sure."

Kachmar declined to do an on-camera interview with Petchenik about the allegation. He said he admits to the heated exchange, but emphatically denies that he laid a hand on Bush.

Kachmar told Petchenik he believes the allegations are politically motivated because Bush and Johnson are supporters of Mayor Mike Bodker and have voiced opposition to a city-sanctioned investigation into whether Bodker violated ethics rules and the law during his tenure in office.

Johns Creek police spokesman Lieutenant Chris Byers told Petchenik the department has assigned a detective to interview everyone involved, who will then turn over his findings to prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges are necessary. He said the department would not seek help from an outside investigator in this situation.

Johnson told Petchenik she believes allowing the department to investigate Kachmar, the police chief's boss, is a conflict of interest.

"I believe it would be appropriate for another agency, not so close to this individual, to conduct it," she said.

Frank V. Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, told Petchenik it's not uncommon for city police to investigate other employees, even in situations such as this.

"A lot of cities do it like that," he said. "Chief (Ed) Densmore is an ethically strong police chief. There's no doubt in my mind they know how to do an investigation."

Rotondo said the city could opt to hire private investigators to look into the situation if leaders felt there was an appearance of a conflict.

"Even if it's done right, it'll be second-guessed," he said of the investigation. "The only reason to bring from the outside is to avoid the second-guessing."