The ongoing investigation into corruption at Atlanta City Hall has taken many twists and turns since the first charges were filed. Here is a timeline of some of the most important events that have unfolded so far.
Jan. 17, 2017: Well-known Atlanta construction company CEO Elvin R. “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. was charged with conspiring to pay more than $1 million in bribes to unnamed individuals to help win city contracts. [READ MORE]
Jan. 25, 2017: In the days after Mitchell was charged, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News learned of an apparent attempt to intimidate Mitchell. In September 2015, after Mitchell started talking to the feds, someone threw a brick through his living room window with an ominous message. Dead rats also were left on Mitchell’s property. The AJC and Channel 2 later learned Shandarrick Barnes, a former city of Atlanta employee, was arrested in November 2016 in connection with the incident. Barnes had connections to both Mitchell and Mitzi Bickers, a campaign consultant who helped Kasim Reed win the mayor’s race in 2009. Bickers would later serve as the city’s director of human services from 2010 to 2013. Barnes later pleaded guilty to federal charges of interfering with a federal witness. [READ MORE]
Jan. 25, 2017: Mitchell pleads guilty, admitting to paying bribes totaling over $1 million over a period of years. [READ MORE]
Jan. 26, 2017: Then-Mayor Kasim Reed distances himself from Bickers after connections surfaced between her and subjects of the bribery scandal. On a city ethics document filed by Bickers, she described herself as directly reporting to Mayor Reed. Reed maintained that was not true. [READ MORE]
Feb. 1, 2017: The city announces it will release records pertaining to contracts at the center of the City Hall bribery scandal. The AJC and Channel 2 sought contracts, payments, emails and other routine city documents pertaining to E.R. Mitchell, his associates, and their companies, and received a blanket denial of that information saying the ongoing federal investigation allowed them an exemption under Georgia's open records law. Legal experts told the AJC the city’s stance violated state law. [READ MORE]
Feb. 2, 2017: Through her divorce attorney, Marjorie Mitchell told the AJC and Channel 2 that she's uncovered records showing her husband, E.R. Mitchell, misrepresented his wife's role in his companies and her experience in the construction industry on documents he filed with the city. Marjorie Mitchell said she had no idea her husband used her name to win contracts or to get certified as a female minority business owner for bonus points in the bidding process with multiple governments, including Fulton County and Jackson, Miss. [READ MORE]
Feb. 8, 2017: Federal prosecutors charge Charles P. Richards Jr. with conspiracy to commit bribery in order to obtain city of Atlanta contracts. From 2010 to August 2015, Richards was alleged to have paid $185,000 in bribes in the belief that some of the money would be paid to unnamed city officials, prosecutors alleged. [READ MORE]
Feb. 9, 2017: The city of Atlanta releases more than 1.4 million pages of public records it said were related to the bribery scandal. Among the documents released was a subpoena for records related to Bickers. [READ MORE]
Feb. 16, 2017: Richards, the second construction contractor, pleads guilty to paying at least $185,000 in bribes, which federal prosecutors said produced millions of dollars in city of Atlanta contracts. [READ MORE]
Feb. 21, 2017: Chief Procurement Officer Adam Smith was fired the same day federal agents seized a city owned-computer and a city-owned phone from his office. Throughout his 14-year career with the city, Smith ran an office that oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in spending. He was hired as procurement director by then-mayor Shirley Franklin in 2003 and kept by Reed. [READ MORE]
Feb. 23, 2017: A whistleblower from Mississippi tells the AJC and Channel 2 about being interviewed by federal investigators on the activities of Bickers and current Atlanta Watershed Commissioner Kishia Powell, who previously served as public works director in Jackson, Miss. Bickers formed a Mississippi company in 2015, with another subject of the Atlanta bribery case, Keyla Jackson. They went on to win part of a $75 million hotel construction project in downtown Jackson. The whistleblower alleged Bickers wanted her help to win contracts and that Powell tried to steer bids to Bickers’ company, an allegation Powell denies. Mitchell also sought work in Mississippi, records showed. [READ MORE]
Feb. 24, 2017: A federal subpoena shows prosecutors sought emails, ethics disclosures and other records tied to Adam Smith since Jan. 1, 2014. [READ MORE]
April 11, 2017: A former city worker filed a lawsuit against the city accusing officials of buying city vehicles used for Mayor Reed with federal funds set aside for police cars. [READ MORE]
May 25, 2017: Emails obtained by the AJC showed Bickers, who had not been publicly identified as a target of the investigation, hired a criminal defense team that sought to justify the sources of her income to federal prosecutors. [READ MORE]
July 13, 2017: The AJC obtained bank records showing Mitchell and companies he controlled paid Bickers and her companies more than $1.6 million over three years during the time period of the federal investigation, including payments that corresponded with ones Mitchell admitted to making in his guilty plea. The report for the first time linked Bickers to the alleged bribery scheme. [READ MORE]
Aug. 24, 2017: In the heat of the race to succeed Reed as mayor, City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, then one of the top candidates, called on Reed and council colleagues to support a moratorium on the approval of city contracts that start in the next year to give the next council and mayor their say-so. Mitchell said a pause was called for given the scrutiny of the federal probe. The call triggered a fiery response from Reed. [READ MORE]
Sept. 26, 2017: Adam Smith pleads guilty. Prosecutors said Smith accepted more than $30,000 in payoffs from an unnamed company that did business with the city. [READ MORE]
Sept. 29, 2017: It was learned that federal agents in September raided the offices of the PRAD Group, a longtime city of Atlanta contractor. [READ MORE]
Oct. 10, 2017: Contractor E.R. Mitchell is sentenced to five years in prison and Charles Richards is sentenced to more than two years in prison. [READ MORE]
Jan. 16, 2018: Adam Smith is sentenced to 27 months in jail. Prosecutors said Smith secretly recorded a number of conversations on his own and later recorded more at the direction of federal authorities. He admitted to taking at least $44,000 in bribes. [READ MORE]
March 8, 2018: The AJC and Channel 2 report on text messages that reveal an effort by then-Mayor Kasim Reed’s press secretary to delay releasing potentially embarrassing information about unpaid water bills by Atlanta city officials, and when finally released, to make it as difficult as possible to understand. [READ MORE]
March 9, 2018: The AJC reveals legal bills provided by the city to the newspaper the previous year in response to an open records request about the federal investigation weren’t genuine records. [READ MORE]
March 13, 2018: The state attorney general’s office asks the GBI to open an investigation into possible violations of the state open records law by the press office of then-Mayor Kasim Reed. [READ MORE]
April 4, 2018: The AJC and Channel 2 uncover records showing a city-tied nonprofit called Partners for Prosperity paid $40,000 to cover a portion of luxury airfare for Reed and several city officials to fly to South Africa for a controversial economic development mission. Reed had promised “nongovernmental” sources would pay for the trip. But the AJC/Channel 2 report revealed the money had originated with the city, was donated to the nonprofit and then returned to the city a few months later. [READ MORE]
April 5, 2018: Mitzi Bickers pleads not guilty to the 11-count indictment on charges that she took $2 million in bribes to steer city of Atlanta contracts to at least two contractors from 2010 to 2015. Bickers’ indictment largely followed financial transactions previously outlined in the AJC. [READ MORE]
April 9, 2018: Shandarrick Barnes, the former aide to Bickers, is sentenced to 37 months in prison after admitting to conspiring to intimidate Mitchell by throwing a brick through the contractor’s window after Mitchell started cooperating with the feds. [READ MORE]
April 11, 2018: The AJC and Channel 2 filed a complaint with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr alleging “a culture of political interference” with open records requests at Atlanta City Hall, and requesting mediation to implement reforms for repeated violations of state law. [READ MORE]
April 17, 2018: The AJC and Channel 2 obtain two federal subpoenas seeking documents from City Hall. One focuses on Reed's deputy chief of staff and a man convicted of wire fraud. The other subpoena focuses on the city credit cards, including one used by Reed. The second demand for records also sought information related to Partners for Prosperity. [READ MORE]
April 19, 2018: The Invest Atlanta board votes unanimously to create an ad hoc committee to perform an independent review of a $40,000 transaction between the city and its nonprofit fundraising arm, Partners For Prosperity. The transaction was named in a federal subpoena delivered to the city earlier in the month in relation to the U.S. Attorney’s Office widening corruption investigation at Atlanta City Hall.[READ MORE]
April 25, 2018: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation pays surprise visit to Atlanta City Hall in relation to the ongoing investigation into open records requests. [READ MORE]
April 26, 2018: The AJC and Channel 2 obtain texts from a personal smartphone of the top spokeswoman for former Mayor Kasim Reed. They show the spokeswoman tried to compel a senior city official to delay production of public records, repeatedly telling him to thwart a city attorney’s advice to comply with an open records request and even issuing a veiled threat to involve Reed. [READ MORE]
May 14, 2018: A Channel 2/AJC investigation found a 10-point subpoena — dated Sept. 9, 2016, and kept from the public with former-Mayor Kasim Reed’s knowledge — included demands from federal prosecutors for information about lucrative construction and concessions contracts at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; vendors with close political ties to Reed; and financial records for three members of his cabinet. [READ MORE]
July 19, 2018: The board of Invest Atlanta votes to reprimand CEO Eloisa Klementich and strip her of her contract following an investigation into Partners for Prosperity. Klementich, who kept her job as an “at-will employee,” was a director of the city-tied charity involved in a complicated transaction used to pay off a portion of luxury airfare to South Africa for former Mayor Reed and city officials in 2017. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the city review found no criminal violations in the matter, which had attracted the attention of federal investigators. [READ MORE]
July 23, 2018: A new subpoena issued in the federal corruption probe into Atlanta City Hall shows that federal authorities sought records related to all requests and approvals for leave for every member of former Mayor Kasim Reed's cabinet. [READ MORE]
Aug. 2, 2018: Records obtained by the AJC and Channel 2 show former Mayor Reed reached secret terms in a settlement with Miguel Southwell, the airport general manager he fired in 2016, agreeing to pay Southwell $147,000 more than was disclosed to the City Council and the public. After his firing, Southwell had accused the mayor of improprieties involving contracts at the airport. The accusations led to the September 2016 subpoena that the Reed administration later hid from the public. [READ MORE]
Aug. 8, 2018: Katrina Taylor-Parks, who served as deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Kasim Reed, was charged with accepting bribes in 2013 from an unidentified city vendor. The AJC was able to identify the vendor as a company led by Paul Marshall, a Marietta man who has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in an unrelated case. [READ MORE]
Aug. 15, 2018: Taylor-Parks pleads guilty in federal court for accepting $4,000 in bribes. [READ MORE]
Aug. 28, 2018: The AJC and Channel 2 obtain a federal grand jury subpoena seeking records of former Mayor Kasim Reed and his office’s credit card spending and travel for the entirety of his two terms in office. The subpoena follows reporting by the AJC and Channel 2 that showed Reed and members of his cabinet spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2015 to 2017 on travel and other items with city “p-cards.” [READ MORE]
Sept. 18, 2018: The Atlanta City Council approves an ordinance meant to reform how the city responds to requests made under the Georgia Open Records Act. The legislation creates the post of transparency officer to ensure city compliance with the Open Records Act, which gives the public the right to access to government documents and records. [READ MORE]
Oct. 3, 2018: The AJC and Channel 2 agreed to drop their claims against the city of Atlanta for what the media organizations described as “systemic violations” of the Georgia Open Records Act. Under the agreement, the city will work with the news outlets over the next 90 days in drafting a comprehensive policy that will govern how the city responds to public records requests. [READ MORE]
Oct. 24, 2018: A federal grand jury adds a twelfth charge against Bickers in an updated indictment. Prosecutors allege Bickers tried in 2014 and 2015 to win contracts in Jackson by paying for parties, food, airline flights, hotels, chauffeured car services, entertainment, fundraisers and campaign services for newly elected Mayor Tony Yarber and other Jackson city officials. [READ MORE]
-- This timeline was created by Scott Flynn at Channel 2 Action News and J. Scott Trubey at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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