Candidate Aman: Contractors pledged money if he took care of ‘friends’

Atlanta mayoral candidate Peter Aman says there’s plenty of Chicago-style politics happening in the Atlanta mayor’s race.

Aman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News that he was assured city contractors would contribute to his campaign if, as mayor, he took care of his “friends.”

The city’s chief operating officer during the first two years of Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, Aman is one of nine major candidates in the race.

“There’s a saying from Chicago that the mayor can’t get rich, but his friends can,” Aman said, adding that a person he declined to name told him: “I’ll get a group of city contractors together … and if you can assure them that you have a similar viewpoint on the world, then we’ll swing their support behind you.”

Aman said he did not take his story to the U.S. Attorney’s Office because there was no promised donation for a specific contract. Still, Aman said he thought the offer was “absolutely appalling.”

“Nobody talks about that stuff, and it is happening all the time,” Aman said. “There are calls being made for money right now, with very high-pressure tactics that nobody talks about.”

Aman has made ethics and transparency central themes of his campaign. He and several other candidates have talked extensively about reforming the city’s contracting process, which has been the focus of a federal bribery investigation for more than a year.

A spokeswoman for Reed’s office issued a statement saying Aman’s story was retaliation for the mayor’s endorsement of Keisha Lance Bottoms.

“Peter Aman’s comments are untrue and unfortunate,” the statement says. “Mr. Aman is coming to grips with the fact that — despite spending more than $1 million of his own money attempting to buy a seat that he could not earn — he is going to lose this election.”

Vincent Fort, a former state senator whose campaign has focused on cleaning up corruption at City Hall, said the offer described by Aman is “real close to the line of illegal conduct.”

“At the end of the day, that is how things are done at City Hall, and it’s wrong,” Fort said. “It’s how City Hall has gotten into this mess.”

A federal bribery investigation has netted three guilty pleas. Two contractors have admitted to paying more than $1 million in bribes and have been sentenced to prison. In addition, former chief procurement officer Adam Smith has admitted to accepting more than $30,000 in exchange for insider contract information.

All three men are cooperating with the investigation.

More than $9 million has been raised by nine major mayoral candidates — that figure includes $1.4 million in loans three candidates have made to their own campaigns. Aman has raised about $2 million, with about half of that amount coming from his personal finances.

Candidate Cathy Woolard, former president of the city council, said she would have taken the story to federal prosecutors whether there was a quid pro quo, or not, “so they could make it part of their investigation.”

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