The Atlanta City Hall bribery scandal began in January when contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pay cash in exchange for city contracts.

Former city purchasing chief pleads guilty in Atlanta bribery scandal

The Atlanta City Hall bribery scandal ensnared a former member of Mayor Kasim Reed’s cabinet Tuesday when the city’s former chief purchasing officer pleaded guilty as part of a conspiracy and admitted taking payments in exchange helping a vendor win city contracts. 

Adam Smith was charged in documents made public Tuesday with a single count of conspiracy in the investigation that has already netted guilty pleas from two contractors who have agreed to testify against others. The case against Smith comes in connection with a federal cash-for-contracts investigation that has simmered for more than two years, though the matter only became public knowledge in January. 

Smith agreed to testify on behalf of the government in exchange for his plea. 

“This is a horrible day and horrible time in Mr. Smith’s life.” said his defense attorney, Brian Steel, after the court action. “However, this misconduct is a total  aberration, and I firmly believe Mr. Smith will continue to do great things in his life and this criminal conduct will not define him. He takes full responsibility.”

As part of his plea, Smith has agreed to provide evidence and testimony, possibly against others, in the case.

Adam Smith, city of Atlanta chief procurement officer, was fired Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, on the same day federal agents seized items, including a computer, from his office.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

According to the criminal information document, from at least 2015 to January of this year, Smith allegedly accepted more than $30,000 in bribes from a city vendor, who was not named in the complaint. 

The complaint said Smith regularly met with the vendor, described as an executive of a construction firm in Atlanta. 

The complaint states that Smith met multiple times with the vendor to discuss bids, projects and future project solicitations, and that the vendor was an active participant in seeking city work. 

“After most of the meetings, (the) Vendor paid Smith approximately $1,000 in cash,” the information states. It goes on to say that Smith “knew that (the) Vendor expected Smith to use his position and power as Atlanta’s chief purchasing officer” to help the vendor with contracts and to “furnish Vendor with future benefits and favors when needed.”

September 26, 2017 Atlanta: This is an artist’s rendition of Adam L. Smith (center) in court with his attorney where he plead guilty to accepting more than 30,000 in bribes at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building on Tuesday, September 26, 2017, in Atlanta. Special artwork by Richard Miller
Photo: Compton

Smith is the first senior officer at City Hall charged in the matter. Smith was fired in February, the same day federal agents served a subpoena seeking Smith’s city-issued computer, smartphone and other information. 

The February subpoena signaled an expansion of the bribery probe. 

The cash-for-contracts investigation came to light in January when contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. was charged and pleaded guilty to a scheme in which he paid more than $1 million in bribes to an unnamed person under the believe that some of the money would go to one or more city officials with influence over the contracting process.

A second contractor, Charles P. Richards Jr., also pleaded guilty in the probe. 


AJC Business reporter J. Scott Trubey keeps you updated on the latest news about economic development and commercial real estate in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on, including these stories:

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