Woolard claims Aman downplayed Atlanta City Hall role about contracts

3:58 p.m Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 Local
Atlanta mayoral candidate Cathy Woolard, former Atlanta City Council member and president, speaks during a forum in February. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Former Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard blasted a rival for mayor as not being straight with voters about his role in supervising city purchasing when he worked as a top deputy for Mayor Kasim Reed.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Woolard said former Chief Operating Officer Peter Aman has downplayed his role in contracting when he was with the city, and said Aman is either trying to mislead voters or doesn’t understand the role of the city’s executive branch.

Aman has said city code prevents the COO from being involved in selecting city vendors, and he has put ethics and a track record of firing city workers caught abusing taxpayers at the forefront of his campaign.

Cathy Woolard is candidate for Atlanta mayor

City contracting and the ongoing federal bribery investigation reemerged as key issues in the mayor’s race in recent weeks when the city’s former top purchasing officer, Adam Smith, pleaded guilty to taking more than $30,000 in bribes from 2015 to January 2017.

Two contractors, meanwhile, were sentenced this month to prison for their roles in a conspiracy to pay more than $1 million in bribes to as-yet-unknown officials from 2010 to August 2015.

The offices of another city vendor, the PRAD Group, were raided by federal agents in September, forcing City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms to return more than $25,000 in donations she received from people connected to that company.

Aman served as COO under Reed in 2010 and 2011.

“The COO does not have a role in the vendor selection process, period,” a spokeswoman for Aman said Thursday. “The COO does not influence or grant contracts.”

Woolard did not accuse Aman of any wrongdoing.

But Woolard said the city charter allows the executive branch to determine how bids are evaluated and Aman as COO had the executive authority to change how departments, such as procurement, are run.

Woolard made a similar argument Sunday in debate televised by WSB-TV.

“He either misunderstands the role of the COO and the mayor in the operations of the city, or he is not describing accurately to the voters what he could have done while he was there,” Woolard said.

Woolard also lamented that the City Council has failed to take up the issue of procurement reform as a check on the executive branch.

Aman has said in debates and forums that he will put a “maniacal” focus on ethics, and that he would personally train the city’s employees in ethics as mayor.

All of the candidates in the crowded field that includes eight serious contenders have proposed a number of reforms to purchasing if elected.

A Channel 2 Action News/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Landmark Communications poll earlier this month had Councilwoman Mary Norwood leading a field of candidates, with Bottoms and Aman rounding out a top three.

Woolard was in fourth place in that poll.

Early voting has started and the election is Nov. 7. A runoff is likely with the top two finishers squaring off in December.

The next mayor will impact all of metro Atlanta, and the economy of the Southeast. In our series Election 2017, we examine how a lack of affordable housing means fewer new companies – and new jobs – moving here. 

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