Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office introduced legislation to allow the city to fund transition services when a new mayor is elected, a move that comes after Bottoms faced criticism for her transition team’s use taxpayer funds.
The legislation, introduced at Wednesday’s city council finance and executive committee meeting, comes after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation last month revealed members of Bottoms’ campaign were hired and retroactively paid for work performed before she took office in January 2018.
The legislation would require $75,000 for transition support and $25,000 for an inauguration. A mayor-elect would be responsible for anything beyond those amounts. The proposal was held in committee and could be reintroduced as early as the May 15 meeting.
“There is no written or codified process for mayoral transition and no consistent historical process to follow,” Bottoms’ spokesman Michael Smith said in an emailed statement to The AJC. “In years past, money has been made available for a transition, but it has been done on a case-by-case basis.”
Councilman Howard Shook, who chairs the committee, said he supports the legislation but had questions.
“It’s just a lot of technical issues that we haven’t had an opportunity to flesh out internally,” Shook told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the meeting.
Historically, inaugural and transition expenses for Atlanta’s incoming mayors have come from their campaign coffers which generally include funds from businesses and organizations. Because finances have traditionally come from private sources, it is not clear if the $100,000 total is enough to cover all transition and inauguration expenses.
“The mayor believes that model (using campaign dollars to fund the transition and inauguration) is outdated and inadequate to meet the needs of the mayor-elect and the city,” Smith said.
It is not known how much Bottoms’ campaign spent on her 38-member transition team or inauguration expenses. An AJC investigation revealed the city spent $26,000 for six of her campaign staff, who were retroactively hired.
The investigation prompted the Atlanta City Council to pass a resolution requesting an independent investigation to determine whether payments from the city to Bottoms’ campaign staff violated city code. Bottoms vetoed the legislation. She claimed portions of it — specifically asking for an outside investigator— violated the city’s charter, which designates the city attorney as the chief legal advisor of the city.
Bottoms again addressed the issue at a March 28 town hall before 500 residents inside the Easley Conference Pavilion at Atlanta Metropolitan State College in southwest Atlanta where she insisted “nothing unethical” occurred during her transition.
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