Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed says his office is feeling the heat after a bribery scandal hit City Hall resulting in an FBI investigation, arrests and charges against major construction businessmen in the area, and the firing of a top official in his administration.
In January, Elvin Mitchell, owner of the E.R. Mitchell Construction company pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Atlanta officials with more than $1 million to obtain city contracts, according to the FBI. The revelation rocked Reed’s office and left him on the defensive, explaining that he was frustrated about what happened, but pledged to cooperate with authorities. So far, Reed has released 1.4 million pages of documents related to the case, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Charles P. Richards, owner of CP Richards Construction, was also accused by federal prosecutors of attempting to pay $185,000 to unnamed Atlanta officials for contracts of his own. Former human services director Mitzi Bickers was also targeted by a federal grand jury subpoena — three years after she resigned from her job.
Atlanta spent more than $8 million on snow removal services during a storm in 2014. One of Mitchell’s companies, Cascade Building Systems collected $5.3 million of that.
Federal agents also seized items from the office of Adam Smith, Atlanta’s chief procurement officer who was fired on Wednesday. Reed said he did not know if authorities have questioned Smith, but he has not been arrested. The mayor vowed to clean his administration of any corruption.
“What I’ve made clear is we’re going to follow the facts wherever they go and we’re going to prosecute any individuals who were engaged in illegal activity to the fullest extent of the law,” Reed said on Atlanta radio station. V103 Wednesday morning. “I’m really dissapointed and frustrated, not only for myself, but really moreso for the city of Atlanta and for the people on my team.”
But the black eye on Reed’s office could be a black eye on his political career as well. He is in the closing days of his term in office and cannot run for re-election. He has been mentioned for a possible run at the Georgia governor’s office replacing Gov. Nathan Deal, who also has reached his term limit, but he is left explaining how the alleged corruption seeped its way into City Hall on his watch.
“I have poured myself into this job; I have wanted to be mayor of Atlanta since I was 13,” Reed said at a news conference earlier this month, according to the Journal-Constitution. “Do you think I’d throw my life away for some short-term gratification?”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mitzi Bickers, Atlanta’s former human services director was fired on Tuesday. She in fact had resigned from that position in 2013. The story was also updated for clarification and structure.