Beltline reimburses city for second wedding gift, more alcohol charges

The Beltline said Wednesday it has repaid the city for a bottle of champagne purchased from a South Pacific resort with taxpayer dollars, along with about $475 in other alcohol charges at restaurants in Seattle, Charlotte and Washington that were previously undisclosed.

The moves come after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review found a series of taxpayer-funded credit card expenses with a questionable link to the project's main work, the effort to build a 22-mile loop of transit and trails around the city. That included a $106.22 wedding gift of a wine holder for Beltline chief Brian Leary's fiancee, his parking ticket and his dry cleaning bill.

While the Beltline repaid the city for those expenses after the AJC requested the documents, other costs have not been reimbursed. That includes a $2,100 bill for food at a Braves game, which the organization called a "team building and community engagement event."

The Beltline's board of directors said Tuesday it would review the project's finances because the newspaper's investigation raised concerns about the charges. Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday that he was "disappointed and frustrated" with the expenses, but said that new controls were in place to safeguard against further questionable expenses.

The AJC reviewed thousands of credit card purchases between April 2010 and May 2011 by the Beltline, and found thousands of dollars were spent for elaborate staff retreats, stays at pricey hotels and meals at swank restaurants.

But on Wednesday, the Beltline detailed more expenses not found in the review. One of those charges was a $71 champagne bottle that Leary purchased in January 2011 at the Etu Moana Beach Villas in the Cook Islands. The gift was for Beltline staffer Richard Lutch's wedding, it said.

In all, the Beltline said it has reimbursed the city about $750 for "inappropriate" taxpayer-funded expenses, but it said the tally could grow as its review continues.

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