Atlanta’s inspector general says city leaders are obstructing investigations

Her concerns follow a scathing report released by the office about abuses of power within the Department of Human Resources
The atrium of Atlanta City Hall is shown, Tuesday, February 7, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

The atrium of Atlanta City Hall is shown, Tuesday, February 7, 2023, in Atlanta. Jason Getz /

Atlanta’s inspector general — the city’s top accountability officer in charge of investigating government abuses — gave an unprecedented speech during a City Council meeting on Monday, saying that her office has been blocked internally from doing its job.

At the public comment podium, Inspector General Shannon K. Manigault said she recognized the “extraordinary step” she was taking to address the council publicly.

“But I’m here because what my office is facing right now is extraordinary circumstances,” she said.

Manigault detailed a “concerted effort” within city departments to obstruct investigations, including instances where department heads requested employees summarize their interviews for unnamed commissioners and executive directors to review.

“Rather than give the office what it needs, hurdles have been erected to delay, indeed, and disclose our confidential investigations,” she said.

Manigault also said that records requests by her office were ignored and in cases withheld from investigators. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution following her comments, Manigault said barriers to access in her office have grown over several months.

“The next time we have an interview — interviews that might be scheduled for this week even — what would make us think that the integrity of that interview is going to be upheld?” she said. Manigault said there’s always concern that private discussions may be revealed.

“But for a city leader to request that is such egregious conduct that I wanted to address it as soon as I could,” she said.

Atlanta Inspector General Shannon K. Manigault (City of Atlanta)

Credit: City of Atlanta

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Credit: City of Atlanta

The city’s Office of Inspector General was created in 2020, in the wake of a yearslong federal Department of Justice corruption investigation at City Hall, and independently investigates within Atlanta’s government.

Last week, the inspector general’s office released a scathing report that alleges the city’s Department of Human Resources Commissioner Tarlesha Smith created a city employee position for her daughter and retaliated against staff who questioned it.

Only a few council members responded to Manigault’s testimony before the body, while a majority chose not to weigh in during the meeting.

Council member Andrea Boone was outspoken that she didn’t approve of the public avenue the inspector general took to raise alarms. And that she wasn’t made aware of the report on the HR commissioner or concerns about the office’s investigations.

“My hope is that we are not being egotistical and we are playing with peoples’ lives in the media,” she said. Boone also said that city employees have voiced issues with her over how the office conducts its investigations.

But Council member Antonio Lewis praised Manigault for speaking out.

“For her to come here — I know it’s real serious because of the courage that it took,” he said. “I know we don’t want to talk about the other part of the business on T.V. but I think that this body is supposed to step in right now.”

Manigault told the AJC that she notified the mayor’s office earlier in the day that she was planning on speaking before council.

When asked for a comment, a spokesperson for the mayor reiterated that the HR commissioner has been placed on administrative leave following the IG’s report and that the law department is conducting its own investigation into the claims.

The mayor’s office did not address additional concerns Manigault raised during her testimony.

“If the city continues to approach our records access in the fashion that it has, there are very significant questions about whether the Office of the Inspector General can function going forward,” she said.

The report issued last week on the human resources commissioner also noted concern that city leadership had dodged records requests. But on Monday, Manigault said issues with obtaining records have persisted across investigations.

At one point, an unnamed executive director inquired what it would take to revoke access for the entire Office of the Inspector General.

Manigault said she tried last year to initiate legislative changes to the office’s charter, in order to bring its practices in line with national standards. Those requests were never addressed, she said.

“I was told to wait until the problems arose,” she said. “They’ve arisen and in quite stark fashion. Since that discussion, early last year this office has faced deteriorating levels of access, cooperation, responsiveness, and candidly, basic civility all as we have been here to try to do our job.”