Kasim Reed says of the year-end bonuses he awarded before he left office: “The compensation that I awarded to deserving members of executive leadership during my Administration were entirely consistent with historical practices at the City of Atlanta.” (JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM)

Former Mayor Kasim Reed responds to the report on staff bonuses

Former Mayor Kasim Reed issued this response to an outside investigation into year-end bonuses that Reed gave before he left office. The report found that the bonuses violated the state constitution but found no evidence that the violations were intentional or done in bad faith.

Awards to employees for exceptional service, to retain organizational talent, and reward achievement of success are longstanding practices in the City of Atlanta, both in the private sector and public governance as it competes for the same, top-tier talent. The compensation that I awarded to deserving members of executive leadership during my Administration were entirely consistent with historical practices at the City of Atlanta. In fact, the Report acknowledges that since 2008 more than 500 bonuses of this kind have been distributed. Therefore, I understood these bonuses were allowable under City Code and Georgia law by the executive branch prior to and throughout my Administration. 

The Report establishes that no provisions of City Code nor any laws of the State of Georgia were intentionally violated, nor were any of these awards made in bad faith. Quite the contrary, the Report makes it clear that I consulted with and relied upon the advice of various City personnel who universally understood the awards I was then considering to be: i) a long-established custom at the City of Atlanta; ii) allowed and authorized by law, a conclusion that is all the more reasonable with an informed appreciation of the City’s historical practices; and iii) importantly, falling within the authority vested in the discretion of the Office of the Mayor. The sincerity and legitimacy of my understanding that the awards were proper is only underscored by the Report, which does not undermine my belief that, at the time that I authorized the awards and continuing to this day, my actions were correct and appropriate. 

Although the Report made findings about whether the amounts awarded comported with City Code, the City’s Charter, and other Georgia law, those conclusions are debatable, a matter of opinion, and represent but a singular viewpoint. Even then, the Report’s determinations are not definitive or conclusive, which is clear from its continuous use of probabilities, likelihoods, and other non-committal phrasing to characterize its conclusions. It is critical to note that, under the Report’s reasoning and within its explicit findings, similar awards made by members of the Atlanta City Council are also viewed as violating the State’s Gratuities Clause. Although I cannot agree with the Report in its entirety, I do support revisions to the City Code to resolve the “ambiguities” and “vague…language” that led to the reasonable differences in opinion on which I relied. 

At the end of my term, the City of Atlanta was on its best financial footing in 40 years. Atlantans benefited from eight consecutive balanced budgets, zero property tax increases, zero water rate increases, nine consecutive credit-rating increases, more than $200 million in cash reserves and a 37 percent reduction in crime. As a result, I awarded performance bonuses to members of my executive team - who all played a significant role in contributing to this record of achievement.

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