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Atlanta releasing 1.3 million pages of documents in city bribery case

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office will release 1.3 million pages of documents today related to the on-going federal bribery investigation at City Hall — more than three weeks after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News have requested contracts, emails and other records that could shed light on the scandal.

Reed’s law department had previously cited the on-going investigation as a reason to not release the documents, a decision First Amendment advocates say runs counter to the state’s sunshine law.

It is unclear if the city will release the information in paper or electronic format. The city’s law department had previously told lawyers working for the AJC and Channel 2 that the documents were turned over to federal investigators in electronic format, and the news organizations have continually pressed the Reed administration to release the records electronically.

Releasing the documents in an electronic format would save paper, reducing the cost to taxpayers, and make them more easily accessible for the public.

The media companies’ lawyers wrote a Jan. 30 letter demanding release of the documents. Two days later, the city claimed it hadn’t read the letter, but that it would provide the records because their release would no longer harm the on-going federal investigation.

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Two contractors, Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell and Charles P. Richards, have been charged in the probe. Mitchell pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery and launder money on Jan. 25; Richards was arraigned Wednesday on a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery. He is expected to plead guilty Feb. 16.

The AJC and Channel 2 have requested contracts between the city and companies owned by Mitchell and Richards, emails mentioning those contractors or companies, along with payments made to them. The companies also have requested documents related to certain current and former city officials.

The AJC previously reported that Mitchell has received more than $7 million in payments for emergency city work, mostly in response to snow storms in 2011 and 2014.

The city attorney’s office has indicated that they are making public all documents turned over to federal investigators after a Nov. 30 subpoena demanded much of the same information.

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