The Atlanta City Council is working to make reforms to increase transparency amid investigations into the procurement process and an “illegal” distribution of bonuses, Council President Felicia Moore said at the April 26 Buckhead Business Association breakfast. The city has lost numerous documents as a result of March’s cyber attack on city systems that, in at least one case, pertain to the bonus investigation, Moore said.
“We did lose a lot of info,” she said. Moore has not yet gotten confirmation from the city on what is exactly was lost in the cyber attack. But one document reported lost is a law department memo regarding the legality of bonuses distributed by former Mayor Kasim Reed.
Reed distributed more than $500,000 in bonuses and other gifts, which Moore said she is sure was illegal because the city council did not approve the spending.
“I’d liken it to the mayor taking a basket of money and standing on top of City Hall and just throwing it over the side and people on the street caught it,” she said.
She asked the law department to advise the city council on any action they can take to provide “remedies” to the situation, Moore said. The law department should be able to provide information on what the lost memo said, she said.
“Someone knows what the memo said. Someone wrote it. I never got an understanding of what it concluded,” she said.
In effort to increase transparency amid the investigations, Moore said, the city council has introduced legislation that would require the council to approve any contracts with outside law firms if it is over $50,000. Another would hire two to three independent procurement officers that would note deficiencies in the city’s procurement documents and contractor recommendations in a report to city council, Moore said.
The procurement department has been the target of a federal investigation that has led to charges against the city’s former chief purchasing officer and two city vendors.
“In this environment, the more independent review we can have, the more trust we can have in the information we receive,” she said.
The city announced in April that it plans to launch a tool this summer that will allow citizens to track city spending, something Moore and Mary Norwood, a former council member and mayoral candidate, advocated for several years.
“That is one thing I can take off of my to do list,” Moore said.
Norwood said in an earlier interview that she is thankful Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is launching the tool.
“I applaud the administration on this effort,” Norwood said. “That level of transparency is what every citizen deserves.”
The bonuses that were given to city employees included some that were awarded at parties and for an ugly-sweater contest, Moore said.
“One of those sweaters featured yours truly, Mary Norwood,” Moore said.
Norwood said at the BBA meeting that though the reports that the contest featured an unflattering photo of her may be “hurtful,” she wants to keep the focus on the investigation of possibly illegal spending.
“During a campaign, you can expect an unflattering parody photo of you will make the rounds,” she said. “I don’t want anything to distract the community’s attention from an illegal distribution of funds.”