GBI investigating details of payments from Atlanta to Fulton DA Howard

Fulton County DA Paul Howard talks to the AJC about the new conviction integrity unit. (TYSON HORNE / TYSON.HORNE@AJC.COM)

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Fulton County DA Paul Howard talks to the AJC about the new conviction integrity unit. (TYSON HORNE / TYSON.HORNE@AJC.COM)

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into $250,000 in payments from the city of Atlanta to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard during Mayor Kasim Reed's administration.

GBI agents questioned city officials, including Police Chief Erika Shields and former police chief George Turner, this week after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News reported that Reed’s administration overrode financial controls and bypassed the City Council in cutting Howard two checks of $125,000 each in 2014 and 2016.

The story, published last week, detailed how Reed’s administration issued the checks to the “FULTON COUNTY DIST ATTY OFFICE,” but financial records show the money went to a non-profit controlled by Howard and that a large portion was used to bolster the DA’s salary.

The Atlanta Police Department’s former business manager, Tracy Woodard, said her signature was forged on a document authorizing one of the payments. She acknowledge signing another, but said she did so because she feared being fired.

Woodard said this week that a GBI agent interviewed her on Monday about the same documents that were used as a basis for the AJC/Channel 2 story.

“He just walked through each piece of paper and wrote down his notes,” Woodard said.

Howard has previously called the GBI's probe an administrative matter and said that he expects to be fully exonerated. Neither he nor Reed responded Tuesday to questions.

Woodard said the GBI agent also planned to interview City Council President Felicia Moore. Asked about the interview, Moore said in a text message: “It’s an open investigation, so I have no comment.”

Shields, who was a deputy chief in charge of departmental finances at the time of the payments, told the AJC last week that it is becoming clear that the payments “were designed for reasons other than taking care of the community and I regret that the police department was complicit — albeit unknowingly — in its funding.”

“Chief Shields has spoken to the GBI and is fully cooperating,” said APD Spokesman Carlos Campos.