Head of Atlanta jobs agency retires in wake of AJC investigation

Credit: Bob Andres / AJC

Credit: Bob Andres / AJC

The head of Atlanta’s jobs agency retired Tuesday after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found her agency recklessly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency jobs money on phantom workers and token or nonexistent training, a spokesman for Mayor Kasim Reed’s office confirmed.

Deborah Lum had been the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency’s executive director for 11 years. She was paid nearly $98,000 per year.

Mayor Kasim Reed’s senior advisor Michael Sterling, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago, was appointed interim executive director of AWDA while a national search is conducted for a permanent replacement.

Lum, 67, was hired by then-Mayor Shirley Franklin in 2003 to reform the agency after years of complaints of cronyism and corruption. She had been Southeast director of the National Alliance of Business and boasted ties to local civil rights heroes and the city’s elite.

The AJC investigation, which was published Sunday, found that federal stimulus dollars to retrain workers during the recession ended up in the pockets of city insiders, including those who were unqualified to provide the services they were supposed to teach.

Although city records show companies were paid up to 90 percent of the salaries of on-the-job trainees, many supposed participants said they were unaware they were part of a job training program at all.