Councilman Church a no-show: City Council silent on former Kennesaw mayor’s child molestation charges
by Sarah Westwood
July 03, 2014 04:00 AM | 3821 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, seated at the head of the table, leads a meeting of the Kennesaw City Council on Wednesday at Kennesaw City Hall. To his left is an empty chair, typically filled by councilman and former mayor Leonard Church. Church is facing child molestation charges and was released on $10,000 bond from the Cobb County Jail on Saturday.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, seated at the head of the table, leads a meeting of the Kennesaw City Council on Wednesday at Kennesaw City Hall. To his left is an empty chair, typically filled by councilman and former mayor Leonard Church. Church is facing child molestation charges and was released on $10,000 bond from the Cobb County Jail on Saturday.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Leonard Church
Leonard Church
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KENNESAW — Council members quietly skipped over an agenda item listed for Councilman Leonard Church Wednesday evening, in what was the council’s first meeting since Church was charged with child molestation last week.

The four remaining council members and Mayor Mark Mathews were mum on their fellow councilman’s absence during the meeting, where they addressed such topics as city motorcycle surplusing.

“This is an ongoing police investigation, so I would refer your questions to Cobb police,” said Councilman Tim Killingsworth when asked about Church’s future.

Councilman Jim Sebastian took a similar tone, referring questions instead to the city’s attorney.

Church, a former Kennesaw mayor, was arrested at 2:50 a.m. Friday and released from the county jail on bond Saturday morning.

Council members declined to comment on when — or if — their colleague would return to City Hall.

“Right now, we’re just doing the business of the city,” said Councilwoman Cris Eaton-Welsh.

Detectives say a nine-year-old boy told his parents Church showed him pornographic materials on a computer and molested him at the councilman’s home.

Officer Mike Bowman, spokesman for the county police department, said the case started when the boy came to his parents last Thursday night about the alleged incident.

Councilwoman Debra Williams also opted not to discuss Church’s charges.

“That’s personal,” Williams said. “It has nothing to do with anything in these chambers.”

Mathews said he stuck by the statement he issued Friday, in which he wrote: “From the city’s perspective, we were extremely saddened to hear of the charges and ultimate arrest of council member Church. This is a very sensitive, active and ongoing investigation being conducted by Cobb County PD and their Crimes against Children Division.”

Mathews said Wednesday the issue has been “very frustrating” and “very sad.”

“Our prayers are with everyone involved, whoever they may be,” he said.

Ann Pratt, a 30-year Kennesaw resident, who is retired from Bank of America, said she attends many council meetings.

She noted Church “never had a spot on his record” when he served as the city’s two-term mayor after winning the 1999 election.

“I feel like you have to wait until you know all the facts,” Pratt said of how she felt the city should handle the accusations against Church.

“He could be perfectly innocent or perfectly guilty. I don’t want to persecute somebody until I know for sure.”

Jim Merrill, who has lived in Kennesaw since 1967 and is now retired from a printing company, said he too would withhold judgment until more about the case was known.

“(Politicians facing accusations, such as those levied against Church) get convicted in the press,” Merrill said, “especially by some of those TV shows. They will beat some things to death.”

Police have not released updates in the Church case. Calls to the councilman have not been returned.

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