JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — An investigative report accuses Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker of ethics and legal breaches.
The report, prepared by former DeKalb County district attorney Bob Wilson, was ordered by several members of the Johns Creek
City Council in January, and outlines what Wilson calls violations of the public trust.
"That is the kind of thing that gives government a bad name and raising suspicions for people about what's really going on," Wilson told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik.
Among the accusations in the 28-page report are that Bodker voted to approve a zoning change for a project on Bell Road, even though the developer was a friend who had previously allowed him to use his vacation home in Florida for free.
"That's a conflict of interest," Wilson said. "That is dangerous in any government. You don't want to receive benefits at the very time from the people whose issue you're voting on. That's just not appropriate."
Wilson stopped short of calling the situation "quid pro quo," and said he found the developer didn't break any laws.
"I think what (the developer) did appears to be out of acts of kindness and friendship, but the mayor is the one responsible for monitoring the conduct of the office he holds," said Wilson.
Bodker told Petchenik the developer is a friend of 20 years who lent him a vacation home.
"I went to a friend, he loaned me his beach property," said Bodker. "He loans it out all the time to his friends, and I just happened to be one of them."
Bodker denies the stay colored his decision on the project.
"Every time I make a decision, I make it on the facts and circumstances based on what's in front of me at the time," he said.
The report also accuses Bodker of getting reduced rent from that same developer on a property he leased from him.
"We have other leases during that
time frame that were more, for even smaller units," said Wilson.
Bodker maintains he didn't get a
sweetheart deal on his rent and that he paid fair market value on the lease.
The incumbent mayor also faces allegations he interfered with police on at least two
occasions; in one instance allegedly telling a Fulton County police officer to scare an elementary school student who had been bullying his godson.
Bodker admits he had a conversation with an officer about what could be done to prevent the bullying, but he told Petchenik he doesn't recall exactly what he said.
"In hindsight, I wish it could have been handled a different way," he said. "But I don't regret protecting a child."
Former City Council member-turned County Commissioner, Liz Hausmann, is quoted in the report as having gotten angry at Bodker over the issue and threatening his removal. Hausmann told Petchenik she was reacting to the information she had at the time, but now believes that information was faulty.
"Today, I'm not sure I'd give that information the same credibility I may have given it years ago," she said.
In another instance, the report said Bodker told Johns Creek police to stop targeting members of the Atlanta Athletic Club after some campaign donors raised the concern to him.
"I raised a concern that was brought to me, by not just one, but dozens and dozens and dozens of constituents who had a mistaken belief they were being targeted by the Johns Creek police department," he said, adding that he never told police to stop enforcement DUI laws.
Investigators have also accused Bodker of violating executive session laws by divulging information to people outside of council items discussed in closed sessions. In one case, the report said Bodker improperly reached out to Roswell Mayor Jere Wood about a disputed road project on the boarder of the two cities.
Wood told Petchenik he remembers it differently, but that investigators failed to include his recollection in their report.
"His comment to me was: 'I can't talk about Brumbelow Road,'" he said.
Wood, like Bodker, questions the validity of the report, saying it didn't get the "whole story."
Bodker called the report nothing more than a political witch hunt meant to discredit him weeks before Election Day.
"I think that most of (the allegations), even by the report's own admission, aren't proven," he said. "They are conjecture and they are assumptions based on not being able to completely connect the dots."
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Sam Olens confirmed to Petchenik his office had received a copy of the investigative report, but Lauren Kane said there was no request to act on it at this point.
Wilson said the report is only interim, and he said the investigation is
ongoing, claiming that Bodker has continued to refuse to provide lease documents and phone records to investigators. Bodker said doing so would be a violation of his privacy.
Johns Creek City Council member Karen Richardson said the report "illuminated" ethics breaches that needed to be brought to light.
"It was absolutely necessary for us to get to the bottom of those allegations," she said.
Bodker previously told Petchenik he didn't receive any
sweetheart deal from the developer, and that he had a third-party person handle the transaction.