Atlanta corruption probe seeks former Mayor Kasim Reed’s records

Channel 2's Richard Belcher reports.

The sprawling federal investigation into Atlanta City Hall corruption has now reached the office of former Mayor Kasim Reed.

An April 6 subpoena from a federal grand jury demands information about charges made to Reed's city-issued credit card, along with information about Reed's brother, Tracy; political consultant Rev. Mitzi Bickers, who was indicted on bribery charges last week; and two other high-ranking officials still in city government — deputy chief of staff Katrina Taylor Parks and Invest Atlanta chief executive Eloisa Klementich.

A second subpoena, dated April 3, focused solely on Taylor Parks, and asks for her city financial disclosure statements; permission requests for outside employment; ethics pledges; along with travel authorizations and reimbursement forms. The subpoena also asks for communications between Parks and four companies, and for all records related to the 2013 installation of wireless internet services at Piedmont Park.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed wrote these personal checks totalling nearly $12,000 to reimburse the city of Atlanta for charges to his city-backed credit card. The reimbursements covered charges from 2015 to 2017.

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The two subpoenas are the fifth and sixth served on the city since 2016, when prosecutors first sought records related to Bickers, and indicate that prosecutors are plowing into new ground in their investigation. Earlier subpoenas have focused on sidewalk and emergency contracting, and sought information related to firms doing business at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Reed issued a statement Tuesday through his spokesman.

“Since the start of this investigation, my administration pledged full cooperation with our federal partners,” Reed said. “My commitment has not changed and all documents requested in the April 6, 2018 subpoena will be provided. Many of these documents have been made available to members of the press previously and reflect legitimate expenses incurred as well as contributions made during the course of my service as Mayor of Atlanta.”

A city spokesperson said Taylor Parks was unavailable for comment.

As a deputy chief of staff, Taylor Parks acts as a legislative whip, pushing the Atlanta City Council to approve contracts and policies advanced by the administration. Councilman Howard Shook said the council received a one-line memo from Bottom's chief of staff late Tuesday saying that Taylor Parks had been placed on medical leave.

The subpoenas were issued after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Reed charged nearly $300,000 on his city credit card during his last three years in office on five-star hotels, expensive business-class airfare, chauffeured luxury car service and more than $21,000 in restaurant tabs. Reed also made questionable expenditures such as a political contribution and paying for on-going educational classes to maintain his law license. Reed reimbursed taxpayers $12,000 for those and other expenses just days after the AJC requested the statements under the Georgia Open Records Act.

Federal prosecutors also want all records associated with the nonprofit organization Partners For Prosperity, which is a fundraising arm of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency. Klementich serves as Partners For Prosperity’s chief financial officer. She could not immediately be reached for comment.

The AJC reported earlier this month that Reed ordered $40,000 of his unclaimed salary donated to Partners For Prosperity in December, then had the nonprofit return the money to the city so it would cover a portion of an expensive and controversial economic development trip Reed and other members of his administration made last year to South Africa.

“Regardless of what happens in the future, I’m very thankful for the feds coming in and taking notice,” said Sara Henderson, executive director of Common Cause Georgia.

Richard Hyde, a longtime investigator who has worked for two Georgia attorneys general, said the subpoenas showed that the federal investigation was getting more serious and credited the AJC and Channel 2 Action News with exposing some of the questionable spending that federal authorities were now looking into.

“You’ve kind of given them the blueprint,” Hyde said.

Bottoms has put more distance between herself and Reed, who played an important role in her election late last year, as the bribery investigation has unfolded.

Bottoms' cabinet consists of a vast majority of Reed holdovers. Three days the after the April 6 subpoena, Bottoms asked her entire Cabinet to resign, except for Chief of Staff Marva Lewis and Chief Operations Officer Richard Cox. Bottoms hired both Lewis and Cox.

Bottoms said the officials could continue working and she would decide whose resignations to accept.

On April 10, Bottoms announced that she would create a web portal so that members of the public could review the city’s financial data.

The next day, the AJC and Channel 2 Action News filed a complaint with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr alleging widespread violations of the state's open records' laws.

Bottoms on Monday announced in a letter to the city council that she had created a new policy for handling public records requests that adopted proposals in the AJC and Channel 2 Actions News’ complaint. A spokesperson for Bottoms issued a statement Tuesday saying the city will continue cooperating with the investigation.

Documents related to the subpoenas must be turned over to the grand jury by May 8.

Staff writer J. Scott Trubey contributed to this story.

The AJC’s reporting on City Hall

Reporting by AJC reporters Dan Klepal, J. Scott Trubey and Stephen Deere March 28 raised questions about former Mayor Kasim Reed’s spending on his city-issued credit card and prompted Reed to refund taxpayers $12,000.

On April 4, the reporters explained how the city channeled $40,000 to a dormant non-profit to cover expenses associated with Reed’s travel to South Africa in 2017.

The April 6 federal subpoena reported in today’s story seeks records related to these two developments.

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