Mayor Kasim Reed denies plan to oust Atlanta recreation authority head
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and prepares to enter the gym of Fickett Elementary School in order to vote during the Atlanta mayoral run-off election on Tuesday. Candidates Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood are on the runoff ticket for the city’s next mayor. The winner of the election will be the second woman in history to lead the city of Atlanta. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
It asked for the council to approve his appointment of a new executive director for the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority.
But Reed doesn’t seem to have the authority to make the appointment. And his request surprised the current executive director, Terry Wand.
Wand went on the offensive, accusing unnamed board members of making inappropriate suggestions that she award no-bid contracts to certain companies.
“Since I have been at the authority I have asked some questions,” Wand said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “It’s been clear I’m not going to rubber-stamp anybody’s agenda.”
At first, the mayor insisted that it all been one huge mistake.
"The information that y'all have is bad," Reed said. "We didn't move to replace her."
But then the recreation authority placed Wand on paid administrative leave, citing her allegations.
Later on Tuesday, city attorney Jeremy Berry in an email declined to answer questions about why Reed would have signed a letter that puts a woman named Mia M. Roberts in Wand’s position if the mayor hadn’t made “a move to replace her.”
Berry said it would not be in the city’s best interest to comment on matters that involve potential litigation.
On a resume submitted to the City Council, Roberts describes her job as “director of operations” at Fourroux Prosthetics in Duluth. The company’s website lists her as a receptionist.
A woman at Fourroux Prosthetics who identified herself as Mia Roberts hung up the phone when a reporter asked if the resume was hers.
According to a letter dated Tuesday from authority board Chairman William K Whitner, the authority has placed Wand on leave so it can investigate her claims.
Whitner’s letter states that the board and Wand had been unable to come to terms on a contract.
“The timing of these assertions, in light of the strained contract negotiations, is curious,” Whitner wrote.
But Whitner in an interview could not explain Reed’s request for approval of new executive director and directed inquiries on the letter to the mayor’s office.
Reed doesn’t seem to have the authority to appoint the agency’s executive director. The mayor can appoint six of the authority’s nine board members. But the organization’s bylaws give the board the power to hire its executive director.
Wand is a lawyer, who had represented Darden and Company, the developer of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on that project.
Wand said she started working as the recreation authority’s executive director without a contract because Reed assured her she would get one and because she was told her help was needed immediately.
The city was deep in negations with the Atlanta Hawks for renovations at Philips Arena and talks weren’t going well, she said.
“I know everybody’s saying, ‘Gosh you’re a lawyer. How do you let that happen?’” Wand said. “But when you get calls from the highest levels of the city, you move.”
Wand’s move to the recreational authority in June was accompanied by another curious missive from Reed. On June 12, Reed asked the council to approve his appointment of Wand to the Atlanta Fulton Recreation Authority for a “four-year term.”
Reed’s office declined to answer questions about that request as well.
DOCUMENT: MAYOR REED’S LETTER TO THE CITY COUNCIL
Whitner said the board contacted the mayor’s office for suggestions for a replacement. Wand’s name was provided. She was retained on an interim basis.
Whitner said contract negotiations started in October – the same month that Wand said the board agreed to remove the word “interim” from her title.
“I thought she was working well as evidenced by the fact we were working to finalize her employment agreement,” he said.
Wand said when she took over, she discovered Lance Bottoms had hired Alvin Kendall as a consultant. Kendall was once disbarred and served time in federal prison. But he had his law license restored in 2015.
Wand said Kendall ran the organization’s day to day operations – before and after Bottoms stepped down.
Whitner said the agency hired Kendall as a consultant. The agency has limited staff – mainly the executive director and an aide – and the business of the authority increased dramatically during the sale of Turner Field and negotiations of a new lease with the Hawks and overhaul of Philips Arena.
Kendall stopped working for the authority in September after he received an email from Wand informing him that his services were no longer needed, he said. He disputed that he oversaw the agency.
Berry in an email said that Wand wanted a five-year contract with a three-year payout if she was terminated.
Wand’s salary is $140,000 a year. She said that Reed assured her that she would receive a certain “dollar amount” if she was laid off under a new administration.
But as her tenure played out, it appears that she needed some protection all along.
“I’m not trying to go after the mayor,” Wand said. “I just need to know if I have a job.”