AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Contractor at heart of Atlanta City Hall bribery scheme made bank withdrawals close to billing city for contracts

Elvin "E.R." Mitchell Jr., the Atlanta contractor at the heart of a million-dollar City Hall bribery scandal, withdrew large sums of money to pay bribes in close proximity to billing the city for emergency contract work his firm was awarded without going through the competitive bidding process, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.

As the AJC reported Wednesday, Mitchell's company Cascade Building Systems, was paid at least $7.3 million for emergency contracts for winter storms that paralyzed the city in 2011 and 2014, along with emergency work in response to 2010 flooding. All of those contracts were awarded without competitive bidding during the time frame of the bribery scheme, as identified by federal prosecutors.

The AJC discovered the payments by searching an enormous database of city payments, obtained in 2015 under the Georgia Open Records Act. AJC reporters then compared dates on Mitchell's invoices to dates of withdrawals that the U.S. Attorney's Office has identified as being made to further the bribery scheme.

Here's a look at how Mitchell's billing lines up with his withdrawals. The withdrawals and their purpose are identified by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the charges against Mitchell; the invoices sent to City Hall comes from AJC research:

Jan. 18, 2011: Billed $1.1 million in two invoices for emergency snow removal.

Jan. 27, 2011: Withdrew $70,000 for bribe.

Feb. 2-8, 2011: Withdrew $200,000 for bribe.

Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2014: Billed $322,000 in two invoices for emergency services work in response to snow storm.

Feb. 5, 2014: Withdrew $7,000 to avoid federal financial transaction reporting.

Feb. 7, 2014: Withdrew $2,500 to avoid federal financial transaction reporting.

Feb. 10, 2014: Withdrew $9,500 to avoid federal financial transaction reporting.

Feb. 11, 2014: Billed $182,582 in two invoices for emergency salt and snow removal.

Feb. 12, 2014: Billed $748,254 for emergency snow removal.

Feb. 14, 2014: Billed $2.3 million combined in six invoices for emergency storm response.

Feb. 14, 2014: Withdrew $9,500 to avoid federal financial transaction reporting.

Feb. 18, 2014: Withdrew $9,500 to avoid federal financial transaction reporting.

Feb. 19, 2014: Withdrew $150,000 for bribe.

Feb. 24, 2014: Billed $1.9 million invoice for emergency storm response.

On Wednesday, the AJC obtained a subpoena federal prosecutors sent to city officials Nov. 30, asking for contracting records for Mitchell and his companies, and also for a Lithonia company with which Mitchell's company partnered as a minority contractor.

C.P. Richards Construction Company is named in the subpoena. The AJC found that the city paid C.P. Richards $10 million on more than 100 invoices from 2009-14, according to an analysis of city vendor payments.

Mitchell pleaded guilty Jan. 25 to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery and launder money. As part of his plea, he agreed to cooperate in the on-going federal investigation and testify against anyone else charged in the scheme.

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About the Author

Dan Klepal is a reporter on the AJC’s investigative team, focusing mainly on local and state governments. Klepal previously covered Atlanta City Hall and Cobb County, where he wrote extensively about the public investment in SunTrust Park. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Klepal covered city governments in Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky.