City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who’s seeking to replace Mayor Kasim Reed, traded swipes with the outgoing mayor at a pair of dueling press conferences Thursday.
The press events follow a week of fiery exchanges between the two men from interviews and social media over upcoming city contracts.
The political barbs came after Mitchell called for Reed and the city council to put a moratorium on the approval of city contracts that start next year, so the next mayor and council can weigh in. The call comes amid a federal investigation into a cash-for-contracts scandal at City Hall.
Mitchell said he is concerned that contracts are being “pushed through” by Reed’s team as their days in office dwindle.
“This administration is being investigated for corruption. We don’t know who’s involved,” Mitchell said. “We don’t know what happened and we don’t know where it’s going. I believe that as we move forward with any procurements, that we should move with caution.”
Reed has said the city’s business can’t stand still and that the city’s procurement process is under review as the feds conduct their investigation.
The mayor tweeted over the weekend that “Mitchell’s personal donor protection plan is a bad idea for our city.”
Candidates are beginning to stake out positions in the race, and in some cases those positions are sharply at odds with Reed.
The extraordinary exchanges between the two men show Reed has no plan to be a wallflower in the race to replace him, as Reed has locked horns with nearly every candidate in this year’s contest.
The mayor wrote in a letter to the Atlanta City Council that Mitchell “wants to be able to delay important projects for the City of Atlanta so that he can solicit contributions from those businesses while he is running, in hopes that he will deliver a specific result on the remote chance that he wins.” Mitchell has said his plan is just as likely to upset vendors.
On Thursday morning, Mitchell convened a press conference in his office at City Hall to respond to Reed’s criticism of him.
“The recent comments from the outgoing mayor, Kasim Reed, are disappointing, they are unfortunate, they’re petty and they’re immature,” Mitchell said. He called them “tweets of mass distraction” and said they were “beneath the dignity of the office of mayor.”
“I believe in fact that Kasim Reed is doing everything he can to divert and deflect attention away from the fact that he is the mayor during a time of what could be one of the most explosive corruption investigations in the city, in the history of this city,” Mitchell said. He said the corruption scandal “has cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”
“The vitriol that we’re seeing spewed in Washington D.C. is finding its way and creeping into local politics,” Mitchell said. “So if Mr. Reed thinks he can intimidate me, if he thinks he can back me down, he is sadly mistaken.”
The barbs continued with a press conference by Reed on Thursday afternoon, who said of Mitchell: “He’s not man enough to respond to another man.”
The mayor said the push to get contracts done is “driven by people who are concerned about chaos after the upcoming mayoral election.”
Reed said Mitchell “has been a disaster in terms of his integrity” during his time as an elected official, citing $8,000 in civil penalties Mitchell has paid.
Mitchell responded on Twitter afterward: “I paid fines due to administrative errors, not corruption.”
Reed also raised questions about clients of law firms Mitchell has worked for, their connections to the city and desires to do business with the city. He called for Mitchell to disclose campaign contributions from city contractors and to release his tax returns.
Mitchell called for Reed to answer a series of questions, including disclosing payments to law firms defending the city in the corruption investigation and answering whether anyone in the Reed administration will be indicted as part of the FBI investigation.
In response, Reed said: “I’m not going to speak to any members of my administration. I’m not going to play psychic.”
“What I am certain about is that it’s not going to lead to me.”
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