Church phones in vote
by Sarah Westwood
July 25, 2014 04:00 AM | 3382 views | 10 10 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Leonard Church, city councilman and former two-term mayor of Kennesaw, attended his first City Council work session July 17 after being charged with two counts of felony child molestation June 27. At this week’s City Council meeting, Church participated via speakerphone from an undisclosed location. <br>Staff/
Leonard Church, city councilman and former two-term mayor of Kennesaw, attended his first City Council work session July 17 after being charged with two counts of felony child molestation June 27. At this week’s City Council meeting, Church participated via speakerphone from an undisclosed location.
Staff/
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KENNESAW — Councilman Leonard Church, who was arrested last month and charged with child molestation, participated by speakerphone in this week’s City Council meeting.

There are differing reports on why he failed to appear in person at City Hall to cast his vote in a contentious 3-2 decision to reject a planned road closure.

Mayor Mark Mathews said state laws dictate when an elected official can miss official meetings.

“It is very specific as to what qualifies someone to be able to participate in a meeting via telephone,” Mathews said.

“Basically it is either for health reasons or if you are out of the jurisdiction. We had a council member who was out of the jurisdiction who chose that option to participate.”

Specific conditions of Church’s bond do not require him to stay within any particular area, though the order does forbid him from changing his address without giving the court written notice.

An official from the magistrate court said Church cannot leave the state under pretrial conditions. However, the official said defendants can submit a request to the pretrial release officer assigned to their cases if they have a reason to leave the state — which can range from a death in the family to a vacation — and are free to cross state lines if the officer approves their request.

Mathews said the law imposes a strict limit on how many times a council member can choose the telephone option before he or she misses enough consecutive meetings to “create a vacancy” on the council. He believes a council member may use the phone option twice.

But a source with knowledge of the matter said Mathews was not giving the entire story. Church participated in the meeting by phone not because he was “out of the jurisdiction,” but because children from an under-8 baseball team were set to receive awards at the meeting’s outset, the source said.

According to a bond condition order obtained from Cobb Magistrate Court, Church may not “linger in any location at which children under the age of 16 are present.”

The source said the children’s presence required Church to dial in rather than risk violating the agreement that is keeping him out of jail while he awaits developments in the case against him.

Officer Mike Bowman, spokesman for the Cobb Police Department, said the investigation into Church’s charges is “still active.”

Councilman Tim Killingsworth said he didn’t consider the meeting to be particularly heated.

“It was just a standard meeting,” Killingsworth said. “I don’t want to put any negative connotation on anything.”

Church has continued sitting on the council since he paid a $10,000 bond and was released from the county jail June 28, missing early meetings but returning to the chamber for a work session July 16.

The person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named, said the council is very uncomfortable with the negative attention the case has attracted, but said the members’ hands are tied when it comes to addressing Church’s continued presence.

According to his arrest warrant, Church is accused of showing a 9-year-old boy pornographic materials on a computer at his home and allegedly molesting the child sometime during the weekend of May 9.

The source said council members have discussed their unhappiness with the situation behind closed doors.

Publically, the mayor, the other four members of the council and city staff have kept quiet about the topic.

Church has not spoken to the media about his arrest or the allegations against him.

Road to stay open

During the council meeting, members Killingsworth and Cris Eaton-Welsh voted to close the stretch of Lewis Street between Dallas and North Main streets in order to improve traffic safety and make way for future developments.

The two were overruled by council members Debra Williams, Jim Sebastian and Church, who voted in favor of leaving Lewis Street open after what one council member estimated was an hour of public comment and debate.

Eaton-Welsh said several people joined the lengthy discussion, with David Lyons, chairman of the city’s downtown development authority, among supporters of the closure and Dale and Cindy Hughes, “fantastic” Kennesaw residents, among its opponents.

Eaton-Welsh said drivers “come flying” off Lewis when they take the route to come and go from North Main.

“My nickname for it is actually the ‘Main Street off-ramp,’” she said.

Mathews said an engineering study found the 420 feet of road in question was being used “primarily as a cut-through,” and was bordered on both ends by unusually-shaped intersections that created difficulties for drivers to see ahead.

“The recommended closure was based on long-term safety and mobility considerations for downtown,” Mathews said.

The closure came before the council carrying recommendations from the city’s public works director, economic development director and Croy Engineering, a Marietta company that regularly contracts with the county and cities for projects, according to the meeting agenda.

Comments
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John D
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July 25, 2014
Mr. Church, I am speaking to you on a personal and professional level, and asking you to step down as a city council member and get the help you need as a private citizen.

You should have resigned immediately after the shocking revelations and charges were brought up against you by the minor child, accusing you of molestation.

Guilty or not- I don't know- that is up to the courts. I do hope you do get a fair trial but that doesn't mean you should stay in office while waiting on a court date. You are a public figure, a city leader and someone many hold in high regard- your resignation is what is best for Kennesaw. You have betrayed the trust of the child you are accused of victimizing, the city you represent and the people you have worked with throughout your years in public life.

It is time to resign.
anonymous
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July 25, 2014
And what if the charges are just not true?

Do you still require this man to jump thru your holier-than-thou hoops?

With little information, it is easy for you to make judgement.

John D
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July 25, 2014
Yes I do. Elected officials have resigned for much less. People elected are held to a higher standard and daily must live in the court of public opinion. This is just my opinion. My request is what he signed up for when he ran for office.

The final line in the Oath Mr. Church swore states:

"I will be governed by what in my judgment is for the public good and for the best interest of the city, so help me God."

I feel (guilty or not) that having this magnitude of charges brought up against him it is in the best interest of the city for him to leave office.
Connie Mack Jr
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July 25, 2014
"The former Mayor phone in from a unknown declosed Bunker location with former VP Dick Chenney telling him to use the ole National Security defense" * Paraphasing

Oh my!
Capt Obvious
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July 25, 2014
Lewis street is a "cut through"?

It's a street, people drive on it. It's paved and marked and everything.

To try and characterize it as a "cut through" is trying to give the impression that it's a dirt path or something, or you're driving across someones yard to "cut through".

Come on, if you can't be honest, don't say anything.

I can't wait for the next election.

Mathews is outta there.
Be Careful
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July 25, 2014
Absolutely NOT!!!!!

Mathews has been caught lying TWICE in one article.

First, he's not truthful about why Mr. Church wasn't at the meeting.

And second...closing the road for "safety reasons". That is TOTALLY NOT TRUE.

They want to close the road to build an apartment complex on the property.

Is Mark incapable of opening his mouth without lying????? I'm beginning to wonder.

As for Ms. Welch's comments, the Main Street Off Ramp, people "flying".

It's a 25 mph speed limit.

Come on, don't get dramatic.
Well?
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July 25, 2014
So, was the baseball team in attendance?

If they were, why are you making a big deal of him following his court order?
Bill in Kennesaw
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July 25, 2014
We should have 5 fully functional Council members not 4 and one who comes now and then or calls in. The bad press in the MDJ and other media will continue as long as we have one Council member facing such serious charges. The pressure on this member will ratchet down if he was NOT a Council member. I'm surprised he can't figure this out for himself. Let's get this over, get him to resign and have an election within 45 days to fill the position. Serving Council members are correct that this is publicity Kennesaw dosen't need.
Good ol American way
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July 25, 2014
What happened to, "Innocent until proven guilty"? Let the system do its job. Afterall, how many meeting have commissioners, councel persons, representatives and the like missing all the time. So long as the job gets done, that's all that should matter. How many meetings has Mr. Church missed? Whether in person or by phone present is present. He still had to do his own research on the issues.
slow down
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July 25, 2014
You want this person to step down and resign before he has even been convicted. How about you wait and see what the outcome of this case is. This man could be 100% innocent, and you have already convicted him and want him out. Yes, the negative publicity stinks, but maybe the MDJ could go find something worthy of writing about instead of publicly putting this man through shame until his trail. Just a thought folks!
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