ATLANTA - On May 17, 2016, Sara Elizabeth Reed was heading north on Peachtree, driving a city-owned vehicle. She ran a red light at 10th Street in Midtown and struck a Chevy Malibu making a left turn. The head of the mayor's executive protective unit arrived at the scene. Despite being at fault in the accident, Sara Elizabeth wasn't cited. Police entered false information about the vehicle into the report in a way that obscured who owned it. (Tyson Horne / Tyson.horne@ajc.com)

EXCLUSIVE: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s wife not cited in 2016 car crash

Sarah-Elizabeth Langford Reed sped through a red light on Peachtree Street in a city-owned SUV and plowed into a Chevy Malibu hanging a left onto 10th Street in Midtown. It was almost 10 p.m., and the collision sent chunks of metal and plastic flying across the intersection.

As Mayor Kasim Reed’s wife, Langford Reed was First Lady of Atlanta at the time of the 2016 wreck. She was not a city employee and had no authorization to operate the vehicle under city code. Yet Langford Reed walked away from the collision without receiving a ticket — or a bill for the damage.

The Atlanta Police Department responded to the scene but did not cite her for running a red light. In addition, the report incorrectly stated that Langford Reed was the registered owner of the vehicle and that she was self-insured.

Taxpayers covered $16,301 in damage to the city’s Ford Explorer. City officials said they could not locate a record of how the other driver’s damages were paid.

Atlanta Mayor Kasin Reed and his wife Sarah-Elizabeth Langford Reed are introduced during the 2014 United Negro College Fund Mayor’s Masked Ball. Langford Reed was involved in a 2016 accident while she drove a city vehicle she was not authorized to operate. JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered the previously undisclosed accident while reviewing documents the city provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to a subpoena. The details of the accident raise questions about whether officers gave preferential treatment to the mayor’s wife.

In a statement issued through his personal spokeswoman, Kasim Reed accused The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of writing a “targeted hit piece” that is part of a larger pattern of unfair reporting.

“The facts are simple: In her role as First Lady of the city of Atlanta, Sarah-Elizabeth participated in numerous events on the city’s behalf and served this city well,” spokeswoman Anne Torres wrote in an email. “On occasion, she used a city vehicle to travel to these events.”

Video of the accident shows Langford Reed running a red light before hitting the other vehicle. She can be seen removing her young daughter from the back seat and carrying the child to the sidewalk.

Langford Reed, who declined to comment, is well-known figure in her own right. She is the daughter of the late Arthur Langford Jr., an acclaimed minister and a former Atlanta city councilman and Georgia State Senator.

Like her husband, Langford Reed earned a law degree from Howard University. She won the Miss District of Columbia beauty pageant and once competed for Miss America. In 2017, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed her to the powerful Georgia Board of Regents, the governing body of the state’s university system.

In September, Langford Reed filed for divorce.

Torres declined to answer questions about if taxpayers should have paid for repairs to the Explorer.

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore speaks in May during the groundbreaking ceremony at Sara J. Gonzalez Memorial Park near the Bolton neighborhood in Atlanta. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Officer ‘not obligated’ to cite mayor’s wife

City Council President Felicia Moore said she couldn’t think of any circumstance in which Langford Reed should have been allowed to drive a city SUV.

The city’s insurance, Moore said, would not cover damages stemming from the unauthorized use.

The Explorer’s $16,301 repair bill was paid by a check from the Department of Public Works. A spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said no insurance claim was made.

Richard Hyde — a former Atlanta Police Officer who was an investigator for two attorneys general and the Judicial Qualifications Commission — said the Georgia Highway Patrol should have been called in to investigate the accident.

“This should have been handled by an outside agency instead of people that depend on the mayor for their livelihood,” Hyde said. “This is a pattern of somebody being immune to being held accountable.”

Atlanta Police spokesman Carlos Campos said officers are given “discretion to decide” when to write tickets.

The accident report notes that Lt. David Jones, commander of Mayor Reed’s executive protection unit at the time, responded to the scene. Campos said that it was appropriate because the protection unit is charged with guarding the mayor and his family. Jones did not investigate the accident.

Anne Torres

Langford Reed drove same vehicle 6 weeks earlier

Police records show the May 2016 accident wasn’t the first time Langford Reed encountered police in the city-owned SUV. Six weeks earlier, she was cited for operating the same vehicle while driving on an expired license and for failing to obey a traffic signal.

Victor Hartman, a former FBI agent, a lawyer and author of the book The Honest Truth About Fraud, said it’s doubtful that any private insurance policy that Langford Reed had at the time would have covered an accident involving the unauthorized use of a city vehicle.

And while the city is self-insured, the coverage would not have extended to a non-employee and person not authorized to operate the vehicle, he said.

“She’s liable for the damages,” Hartman said.

Torres would not say if the other driver was compensated with city funds or through a city insurance policy.

The police report identifies the driver as Leon Steven Landers, although it misspells two of his names throughout. The man who answered when the AJC called the phone number listed for him on the report said he couldn’t remember being in an accident in 2016.

In the space for Langford Reed’s home phone number, an officer wrote the number for the Executive Protection Unit.

‘Bring his checkbook’ to City Hall

Problems surrounding Kasim Reed family members using city-owned vehicles extend to the mayor’s brother, Tracy.

In 2011, Atlanta police suspended a major for 15 days after an investigation found that he had allowed Tracy Reed to drive away from a traffic stop while his license was suspended. The incident led to revelations that Tracy Reed had also been driving city vehicles without a valid license, and forced him to resign from his job as a contract compliance officer.

George Turner, the police chief at the time of both incidents, said he was not aware of Langford Reed’s accident.

Moore said Kasim Reed should reimburse the city for the damaged vehicle.

Reed has already written checks to the city for more than $62,000 from his personal and campaign accounts as reimbursement for improper use of his city-issued credit card and, most recently, for city taxpayers covering health insurance for his family after he left office.

“He needs to bring his checkbook down here like he’s been doing,” Moore said.

Reporter J. Scott Trubey contributed to this story.

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