Two months afterwards abrogation office, above Atlanta Ambassador Kasim Reed reimbursed taxpayers about $12,000 for accuse fabricated to his city-issued acclaim agenda over the accomplished three years, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis has found.
The accuse Reed repaid included a $2,300 political accession to the Democratic Party; four continuing apprenticeship courses for his law license; and a cord of big-ticket restaurant bills, with a $906 tab at Atlanta’s Marcel steakhouse actuality the best expensive.
Reed fabricated the payments with six checks from his claimed account — after the AJC requested his acclaim agenda statements beneath the Georgia Open Annal Act.
The checks were all anachronous March 9, three canicule afterwards a burghal backer accepted to reporters that the acclaim agenda statements would be appear afterwards in the month.
Reed’s checks awning accuse fabricated in all three years, and are in accession to $13,400 he repaid from his attack and claimed accounts while still in office. The burghal additionally accustomed about $4,600 in agenda reimbursements anon from institutions that hosted the mayor, about for speaking engagements.
Reed said the AJC’s annal appeal had annihilation to do with him advantageous aback the $11,851 on March 9, and the burghal didn’t acquaint him about it. Spokesman Jeff Dickerson said Reed began apart reviewing accuse from 2015, 2016 and 2017 — the exact time aeon of the AJC’s appeal — anon afore abrogation office.
“The above ambassador was administering his own analysis to ensure that these and all added affairs apropos to his time in appointment were in order,” Dickerson said in an email acknowledgment to questions submitted for Reed. “In the accident the ambassador approved political appointment in the future, he knew his (credit card) purchases would be a bulk of absorption and capital to ensure that they were in order.”
Despite Reed’s statement, the timing of the repayments raises questions about whether the burghal delayed absolution of the acclaim agenda bills to acquiesce the above ambassador time to analysis his charges.
The GBI is currently investigating Burghal Hall for abeyant bent violations of the state’s sunshine laws, afterward disclosures that a above columnist secretary apprenticed addition burghal employee to adjournment absolution of potentially awkward annal in an different matter.
Reed is the latest accessible abettor to face questions about his use of government-backed allegation cards. Abuses in DeKalb County, accompaniment government and accessible universities accept led to bent accuse adjoin admiral application the cards to accomplish claimed purchases. In 2015, the Legislature was so anxious about agenda bribery that it anesthetized new legislation authoritative it easier to accompany abomination accuse in those cases.
Even with the publicity over allegation agenda abuse, Atlanta’s action does not accurately abode the affair of application the cards for claimed purchases, again repaying the city. Admiral acicular the AJC to the city’s ethics ordinance, which prohibits application burghal acreage for “private advantage.” That would accommodate authoritative political contributions on the cards.
Atlanta Belief Administrator Jabu Sengova told the AJC that she and the city’s centralized accountant are currently reviewing the acclaim agenda affairs policy.
“The cards should abandoned be acclimated for official burghal business,” Sengova said.
Reed said best of the 50 accuse for which he reimbursed the burghal in March were accompanying to accepted burghal business. But he absitively to accord them “to go able-bodied above what is required.”
Only two of the accuse — the 2016 political accession and a baby Delta airline fee that he said was accompanying to a admission for his mother — were inappropriate, according to Reed. He abhorrent a affiliate of his agents for afield application his burghal acclaim agenda to pay for them, admitting the action advertence that abandoned the cardholder is accustomed to accomplish charges.
“You’ve got to be badinage me,” Richard Hyde, a longtime investigator who formed for two attorneys general, said aback told about the political accession on Reed’s card.
In 2015, Hyde and above advocate accepted Mike Bowers articular added than $537,000 in ambiguous spending by DeKalb County commissioners, some of which was answerable to government-backed acclaim cards.
“The catechism is always: What is the annual to the government for that expense?” Hyde said. “Is a law authorization appropriate to authority the job of mayor? If not, he shouldn’t accept the government pay for it. He can’t aloof absorb money like it’s his own.”
In all, the annal appearance taxpayers spent $275,136 advantageous off Reed’s accuse during his aftermost three years in office.
Allegation agenda use escalates in final years
The 36 months of agenda statements advised by the AJC appearance Reed ramped up accuse during his final three years in office: $73,618 in 2015; $124,635 in 2016; and $151,175 aftermost year, which exceeded his bacon of $147,500.
The all-inclusive majority of the costs fell into four categories: airfare, hotels, restaurants and chauffeured car service.
In the aftermost year alone, Reed swiped the agenda in Washington, D.C.; Houston; Paris; Dubai; Chicago; Miami; Capetown, South Africa; California; Colorado; Las Vegas and Madrid. And, of course, Atlanta.
The agenda covered added than $61,000 in airfare, and addition $25,000 for hotels in 2017. And Reed rarely acclimated taxis. He spent about $10,000 on chauffeured car annual aftermost year, and added than $28,000 aback 2015.
The September 2016 annual is an archetype of how bound Reed’s accuse could mount: He purchased 11 flights for $18,375; ordered limo annual 12 times for $2,100; slept in bristles hotels for $2,600; and answerable commons from Austin’s Uchiko sushi restaurant ($341) to The Lobster Pot in Dublin, Ireland ($222). None of those accuse were repaid.
“Oh my goodness, I’m about at a accident for words,” said Sara Henderson, controlling ambassador of Common Cause Georgia. “To use aborigine dollars for things like chauffeured door-to-door service, or thousand-dollar dinners — taxpayers are never actuality asked about this, are absolutely blind it’s happening. It’s a bang in the face to burghal advisers and citizens of Atlanta.”
The AJC could not analyze some of the destinations for airline tickets or the annual of the commons because reporters accept not yet been accustomed to analysis acknowledging affidavit which Reed was appropriate to abide forth with the statements. The city’s action says costs should be “properly accurate and accurate by concrete (original) receipts.”
The accuse are scanned by the affairs ambassador and beatific to the cardholders’ administration for verification. Accuse are accountable to audit, the action says.
Dickerson said Reed did not booty per diem on any of his business trips, alike admitting he was advantaged to.
“This additionally adored taxpayers bags in biking expenses,” Dickerson said.
Airfare for staffers, brother
Over the three-year period, Reed acclimated his agenda at atomic 12 times to acquirement airfare for addition added than himself, the annal show.
In June 2015, for example, Reed acclimated his agenda to book his brother, Tracy, busline to New York through a biking agent. The dates bout up with the weekend Hillary Clinton appear her antagonism for admiral on Roosevelt Island. Reed acclimated $2,261 in donations from his Kasim Reed for Ambassador annual to balance the burghal for the costs several months later. About bisected that bill was for a chauffeured car.
In September 2015, he bought aeroplane tickets to Miami for himself, accepted Ambassador Keisha Lance Bottoms and two associates of his communications staff. At the end of the month, Reed reimbursed the burghal $1,791 from his attack account.
Two months later, he again accustomed taxpayers to awning $907 in airfare purchased for a inferior staffer on Nov. 17, and addition $817 for her to fly out of San Francisco on Nov. 19. During those three days, annal show, Reed’s agenda was acclimated for two Carey Controlling Limo Annual rides accretion $360, and a $100 ride from Easy Rider Limo Annual in Bisected Moon Bay, Calif. The rides, like the airfare, were not reimbursed.
Anne Torres, who went on the Miami cruise as Reed’s communications ambassador and who still works in that position for Ambassador Bottoms, said in an email that the biking was for “economic development” but provided no details. It’s cryptic why Reed would balance the burghal for an bread-and-butter development trip, or why he would allegation to booty associates of his communications staff.
Bottoms beneath to be interviewed about the Miami trip, or Reed’s use of his agenda to acquirement her airfare.
Torres did say the new ambassador has her own city-issued acclaim agenda and will use it “for accepted costs incurred in the advance of her role as Mayor.”
‘Problem cards’ accept a history
Government-issued acclaim cards — sometimes alleged purchasing cards, accretion cards or artlessly P-cards — accept a continued and afflicted history in Georgia, including Atlanta.
In 2012, the AJC begin the Atlanta Beltline fabricated bags of dollars in ambiguous purchases, including abounding on burghal acclaim cards. They included cher meals, booze and gifts.
Beltline staffers eventually reimbursed the burghal added than $4,000, and the aspersion led to the adjournment of then-Beltline CEO Brian Leary. Invest Atlanta, which oversees the Beltline and whose lath at the time was chaired by Reed, abeyant the agency’s acclaim agenda reimbursements in 2011 afterwards questions arose internally about Beltline spending.
“Any time you’re ambidextrous with accessible dollars, there’s a catechism of judgment,” a Reed backer said in 2012.
Above DeKalb County Abettor Elaine Boyer went to bastille in 2015 for felonies that included charging claimed biking and vacations to her county-issued purchasing agenda afterward an AJC analysis into her spending in 2014.
DeKalb revoked P-cards from adopted admiral and their staffs in 2015 aback Hyde and Bowers advised accessible bribery there. The affairs was clearly abeyant one year later.
In 2016 alone, there were at atomic three cases of accompaniment admiral actuality accused of misusing the cards to capricious degrees — from a GBI official application several cards to buy $87,000 account of claimed items; to three above Georgia Tech advisers actuality answerable with fraud; to a top abettor in Secretary of Accompaniment Brian Kemp’s appointment break application a agenda to buy a $471 aeroplane ticket.
“The ‘P’ should angle for problems,” Hyde said. “They’re botheration cards.”
Apart from spending at Beltline, there is addition antecedent for how the burghal of Atlanta has handled allegation agenda bribery in the past.
In 2007, then-Mayor Shirley Franklin’s arch operating administrator Lynette Young entered into a adjustment acceding to abstain belief accuse actuality brought adjoin her for affairs $70.50 account of claimed items with her city-issued card.
She paid aback the money, and was accustomed to achieve because of the low dollar amount.
“The Lath of Belief has bent that the use of a burghal acclaim agenda to accomplish claimed purchases is a bribery of … the Code of Ethics,” Young’s adjustment says. “The Burghal of Atlanta’s baronial controlling admiral charge accommodated aerial ethical standards that set an archetype of able conduct for added employees.”
Agents biographer J. Scott Trubey contributed to this story.
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Planes, hotels and aliment
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution articular four above categories of spending on above Ambassador Kasim Reed’s city-issued acclaim agenda from 2015-17. Reed reimbursed the burghal about $12,000 for accuse in all three years afterwards the AJC requested his acclaim agenda statements through the Georgia Open Annal Act. Here is a breakdown of Reed’s spending in the four above categories:
How we got the adventure
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fabricated a requested beneath the Georgia Open Annal Act on Jan. 26 for all of above Ambassador Kasim Reed’s city-issued acclaim agenda statements for 2015-17. The burghal responded that the abstracts would be accessible Feb. 16, but did not produced them. Aback the AJC asked for an amend in aboriginal March, a burghal backer said the abstracts would be appear March 19. Upon accepting the statements, AJC reporters begin that Reed had reimbursed the burghal about $12,000 afterwards the appeal was fabricated but afore the statements were released. Reporters again anxiously advised the hundreds of accuse on the statements, forth with the reimbursements fabricated to the burghal by Reed, his attack and alfresco institutions. Reporters additionally advised the city’s acclaim agenda action and belief ordinance; submitted questions to Reed and Ambassador Keisha Lance Bottoms; and interviewed an able in government-backed acclaim agenda bribery forth with the baton of a borough alignment that apropos itself with pubic corruption.
Our beforehand advertisement
In 2011, the AJC’s advertisement on ambiguous purchases at the Atlanta Beltline, including abounding fabricated with burghal acclaim cards, led to the adjournment of then-Beltline CEO Brian Leary. The AJC was the aboriginal account alignment to address on government purchasing agenda (P-card) abuses in DeKalb County in 2014, breaking belief that ultimately led to a federal bribery analysis into above DeKalb abettor Elaine Boyer. Continuing advantage and an alfresco analysis into spending practices prompted DeKalb to append P-card use in 2016. The AJC’s advertisement has additionally aloft questions about how busline Atlanta admiral absorb money from arbitrary accounts, and spotlighted gaps in accountability.
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