With Atlanta City Hall under seige by a bribery scandal, it may soon be easier to see the expenses of city councilmembers as well as the city contracts that come their way for approval.
The Atlanta City Council is revamping its website and one of the updates will allow councilmembers to post their expenses “as close to real time as possible” for review by the public, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell said Friday. Mitchell did not say when the new website would come online.
“I will take the lead by posting my council expenses online,” Mitchell, who is also running to be Atlanta’s next mayor, said during an early morning press conference. “We will make it easier, not harder, for our citizens to access public information.”
Mitchell said he also will push to move out of committee legislation that would allow city transactions to be posted online, including emergency city contracts.
“We find ourselves in our city at a crossroads,” Mitchell said. “We can stay stuck on the side road of scandal, suspicion and the specter of corruption or we can choose to forge a new direction.”
Mitchell’s move comes as Atlanta City Hall has been engulfed since January in a federal investigation over an alleged “pay for play” bribery scheme for city contracts. Two contractors have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and the head of the city’s procurement division was fired earlier this week after the FBI seized items from his office.
It also comes as the state’s ethics board renewed questions last week over Mitchell’s campaign disclosures from his run for city council president. The board said Mitchell failed to disclose almost $300,000 in campaign expenditures, allegations that were added to a case the organization has been reviewing for the past three years.
Mitchell declined to discuss the ethics complaint because the investigation is ongoing, but said he expects a resolution soon and that he has been working with the board to settle the inquiry.
“I respect and embrace their role in asking questions and I have a responsibility to respond and answer those questions,” he said. “We are doing that.”
Mitchell said he is pushing for more transparency at city hall because the bribery scandal is diminishing public confidence in those who should be protecting the standards of government.
“The unfortunate events of the past few weeks have shaken the foundation of confidence in city hall and risked tearing further at the fabric of trust which should ably clothe our entire community,” he said.
“When we fall short of these values we pull apart the fragile thread that weaves together the public’s trust,” he added.