Borders, Reed exchange attacks

Atlanta mayoral candidate Lisa Borders said Friday she won’t hire her relatives if elected, nor would she award any contracts to her former employer, and challenged rival Kasim Reed to make similar commitments.

Reed’s brother Tracey works in the city's contract compliance office. Kasim Reed is an attorney at Holland & Knight, which Atlanta hired in 2007 to lobby the federal government for money for its airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and other city interests.

“That’s too many opportunities for a mayor’s judgment to be compromised,” Borders, the City Council president, said during a press conference where she was endorsed by the Professional Association of City Employees, a 327-member group of city workers.

Reed countered in a statement that Borders is the candidate operating with questionable judgment. Three members of Borders' council staff are assisting her campaign.

"I’ll be interested to hear her answers," he said.

Borders campaign spokeswoman Liz Flowers said two of them, Glen Paul Freedman and Camille Johnson, are doing volunteer work primarily after business hours for the candidate and not getting paid. Part-time council staffer Anthony Benton has been paid $4,800 since July to post signs for the campaign and field operations, campaign records show.

"There is nothing unethical," Flowers said. "There is a clear, bright line and we have reported (the campaign disclosures)."

Reed's statement dismissed Borders' challenge.

"Lisa Borders’ desperate attempt to question the propriety of Holland and Knight’s contracts with the city, when they were approved by her council in a fair and open process, is absurd," he said.

Borders made the pledge in part to stifle criticism that her past employer, the powerhouse development firm Cousins Properties, will receive unfair advantages if she’s elected. Reed said in his statement that Borders, a former marketing executive for the company, has been a "shill" for Cousins.

“Voters should not worry about whether or not I am beholden to…developers,” she said.

Candidate Jesse Spikes, senior counsel at McKenna, Long & Aldridge, a law firm that’s done business for the city, scoffed at Borders’ comments, calling them “political gamesmanship.” Spikes and campaign manager Vincent Watkins argued Cousins can profit policies enacted by City Hall that aid the development industry without hiring the company.

Spikes said he would not commit to excluding his firm from bidding for city contracts, arguing such positions would reduce the talent pool of qualified applicants.

“What you need is transparency and a level playing field (in the bidding process),” Spikes said. “Nobody gets any passes.”