Feds investigate guns linked to former Atlanta official

Combined ShapeCaption
Jim Beard's lawyer says Atlanta Ethics Officer Jabu Sengova should be disqualified from prosecuting the ethics case related to Beard?€™s credit card use because she made $300 in political contributions to the campaigns of judges running for Fulton Superior Court.

Two military-style rifles and two semi-automatic pistols linked to the city’s former chief financial officer are now the subject of the federal corruption investigation at Atlanta City Hall.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a seven-point subpoena to the city last week demanding a range of information related to former Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard, including records associated with the purchase and distribution of the guns and a so-called “red dot” scope.

Statements from Beard’s city-issued credit card show he made at least two purchases at gun distributors since 2016, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year.

The subpoena, obtained Tuesday by the AJC through an open records request, is the sixth targeting former Mayor Kasim Reed or members of his inner circle. Beard was one of Reed’s closest confidants as head of the Finance Department.

The Beard subpoena also asks for documents related to two invoices to the city by a vendor named Jimmie A. Beard, with an address of Atlanta City Hall. Beard often goes by the first name Jimmie.

The invoices are for $20,000 and $10,000, and are from 2014 and 2016, AJC reporters found — years in which Beard served as the city’s finance chief.

Beard’s attorney Scott Grubman says the information demanded by federal prosecutors amounts to nothing.

“As Mr. Beard has consistently stated, he is personally unaware of any wrongdoing by anyone at the City during his tenure as CFO,” Grubman wrote in an email. “After over a year of overturning every rock and sorting through every haystack, the government has been unable to uncover one single piece of evidence against Mr. Beard.”

On May 25, 2016, Beard used his city credit card to cover a $735.77 bill at G.T. Distributors, a gun shop in Rossville. Four months later, he used the card to cover a $416 expense at Law Tactical, a distributor near Philadelphia, according to credit card statements obtained by the AJC last year.

Beard did not provide the city with receipts or justifications for either expense, as is required by city’s credit card policy.

Top-shelf weapons

Beard told the AJC last summer that his department worked with police officers on Reed’s Executive Protection Unit “to secure equipment when needed in an expedited fashion.” Each member of Reed’s protection unit had their own city-issued credit card.

Beard’s use of public money was already under scrutiny.

Federal investigations requested Beard's credit card statements from the city after the AJC and Channel 2 Action News reported that he covered a $10,000 Paris hotel bill with his card. Beard repaid the city after the AJC requested the statements last summer — more than a year after he used the card to pay the hotel bill.

Beard also used his credit card to cover an $8,000 tab at American Cut, one of the city's finest steakhouses where he hosted a going away party for Reed and all 32 members of the mayor's Cabinet in December 2017.

A city audit found that Beard improperly charged travel expenses to his city-issued credit card while attending board meetings of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, and that Beard did not report outside income as an MSRB board member on his city financial disclosures.

At least seven times since 2016, Beard used his city credit card to pay for airfare, hotels and ground transportation when traveling to MSRB meetings, which the auditor cited as improper. MSRB spokeswoman Jennifer Galloway said Tuesday that the organization reimburses board members “for MSRB related travel, actual and reasonable expenses.”

The subpoena demands records related to reimbursements made to Beard for travel.

The MSRB did not respond to an AJC request under the Freedom of Information Act for documentation of any expenses submitted by Beard for his time on the board because they are not a government agency. It is unknown if Beard requested reimbursement from the agency.

Other information sought by federal prosecutors include Beard’s personnel file, compensation, disciplinary history, ethics pledges and financial disclosure statements.

Attorney Matthew Kilgo, author of “Georgia Gun Law, Armed and Educated,” said the weapons listed on the subpoena are all top-shelf. They are two AR-15s are manufactured by Daniel Defense, a Georgia gun maker with a facility near Savannah that Kilgo said makes “some of the best on the market.”

The subpoena also lists two Glock pistols, a model 43 and a model 19. And Kilgo called the sight “very high end.”

“He’s got some great taste in guns,” Kilgo said. When asked why a finance director might use public money to buy weapons, Kilgo responded: “You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that doesn’t sound right.”

Data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this story. 

Our reporting

June 20, 2018: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Beard used his city issued card to pay $8,100 of a $12,500 farewell dinner for former Mayor Kasim Reed.

June 27, 2018: The AJC reports that CFO Jim Beard used his city-issued credit card to pay for a $10,277 Shangri-La stay in April 2017. Beard repaid taxpayers on April 17, 2018 — weeks after The AJC and Channel 2 Action News obtained statements for his city-issued credit card.

Jan. 2, 2019: The AJC reports that the city's Ethics Officer has filed a complaint against Beard alleging that he improperly spent nearly $150,000 on his city issued credit card.

Jan. 21, 2019: The AJC reports on the Atlanta City Council's new credit card policy that was drafted because of the news organization's reporting.