Mitzi Bickers, who served as Mayor Kasim Reed’s director of human services and is seen here with attorney Drew Findling, waived her appearance Monday on a charge of conspiracy to commit bribery related to contracts she sought in Jackson, Miss., in 2014 and 2015. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

City Hall bribery target Bickers pleads not guilty in new charge

A central figure in the bribery probe at Atlanta City Hall waived her appearance during an arraignment on a fresh charge Monday in federal court downtown.

Mitzi Bickers, who prosecutors allege helped contractors win millions of dollars in city of Atlanta business, had been called before U.S. Magistrate Judge Justin Anand on a conspiracy to commit bribery charge over contracts she sought in Jackson, Miss., including one for a convention center hotel.

Bickers’ attorney Drew Findling told Anand that Bickers waived her appearance as well as a formal reading of the charge. She is pleading not guilty.

VIDEO: Previous coverage of Mitzi Bickers

On Thursday, Rev. Bickers wore handcuffs and leg irons under a gray pantsuit to a first appearance in federal court, after an 11-count indictment was unsealed that charged her with conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, wire fraud, tampering with a witness or informant, and filing false tax returns.

Typically, a case like this would head toward trial if the parties can’t reach an agreement. Findling could not be immediately reached to discuss next steps for his client.

The new indictment adds to 11 other felony counts Bickers faces as part of the wide-ranging probe of alleged City Hall bribery. Those charges, filed in April, include conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, wire fraud, tampering with a witness or informant and filing false tax returns.

Bickers’ role has loomed large in the federal investigation. She was a powerful ally of former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and her get-out-the-vote skills have been credited with helping him win in 2009. The next year, she was director of the city’s human services department, which she ran until 2013.

Prosecutors allege that while at City Hall she set up a cash-for-contracts scheme that continued after she left the post. The scheme allegedly included snow removal and sidewalks contracts and prosecutors also are looking into any connections with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the city’s watershed department.

The bribery charge connected to Jackson, Miss., alleges that in 2014 and 2015, Bickers sought contracts with that city’s mayor and other officials by paying for parties, food, airline flights and hotels. She also is being investigated for unsuccessful efforts to win a contract for a convention center hotel project in Jackson as well as part of a program management services contract for the city’s Wastewater department.

“On or about May 2015, Bickers represented to a public employee that the mayor promised she would receive a government contract with the city of Jackson and Bickers simply needed to ensure that the paperwork looked good enough to justify the award,” according to the indictment.

Tony Yarber, who was mayor during this period, is not named or charged in the indictment.

At the time of her arrest in April, Bickers was working as a chaplain with the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.

AJC reporters Dan Klepal and J. Scott Trubey contributed to this story.

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