Atlanta candidates say bribery plea exposes City Hall corruption depth


Elected Atlanta officials and candidates seeking to succeed Kasim Reed as the city’s next mayor said Tuesday’s guilty plea by former procurement officer Adam Smith is indicative of a deep level of corruption at City Hall.

“When people in government break the law, the public’s trust is dramatically damaged,” said former city of Atlanta COO Peter Aman, who is running for mayor. “Atlanta taxpayers deserve honesty and sunshine at City Hall.”

City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who is also seeking the city’s top job, reiterated on Wednesday his call for a moratorium on the approval of city contracts that start next year. He is concerned agreements are being “pushed through” City Hall in the waning days of Reed’s term. The allegation has infuriated the mayor, who has used social media and billboards placed outside his office to question Mitchell’s ethics and ties to donors with city contracts.

“We don’t have a sense of where it (the bribery scandal) ends or might end or where it’s going,” Mitchell said. “We are dealing with a culture of corruption and we have got to be serious about addressing that.”

Smith pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge Tuesday for taking more than $30,000 in bribes to help a vendor win City Hall contracts from at least 2015 to January 2017. Smith met regularly with the vendor — who federal authorities declined to name — at local restaurants to discuss “upcoming and ongoing” procurement and construction projects.

Prosecutors said Smith usually would receive $1,000 in cash during the meetings when he and the vendor would step into the restaurant’s restroom.

John Eaves, former Fulton County Commission Chairman and mayoral candidate, said in a statement, “The mayor, city council members and Peter Aman are ALL connected to and responsible for the corruption that overwhelms City Hall. City Hall needs an overhaul.”

Reed’s office said Tuesday allegations that Atlanta’s procurement process has been compromised undermines confidence in the city.

“The city of Atlanta has been working in full cooperation with federal authorities for more than a year – since August 2016 – and assisting them remains our top priority,” Reed’s office said in a statement. “We will not rest until this case is fully resolved and justice has been served.”

Reed has not be implicated in the probe.

City Councilman and mayoral candidate Kwanza Hall said he was disappointed by the allegations against Smith, but that he is confident the legal system will address the issue.

Atlanta City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Mary Norwood said it’s a sad day when a “trusted appointed official pleads guilty in federal court for accepting bribes. It deeply concerns me, on behalf of Atlanta taxpayers, that this may be the first of several indictments and guilty pleas.”

Felicia Moore, Atlanta City Councilwoman and candidate for City Council president, said Smith’s guilty plea “highlights the ongoing need at City Hall for more steps towards transparency and accountability.”

Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, who also is running for council president, said the bribery scandal is frustrating to City Hall workers who are not linked to any wrongdoing.

“I suspect there will be more to come as this continues to unfold,” he said. “I’m anxious for all to be revealed so that we can really go after reforming our contracting processes.”

State Sen. Vincent Fort instead of addressing big problems in the city such as the needs for jobs, safe neighborhoods and housing affordability, “these guys at City Hall are lining their pockets. City Hall needs to be cleaned up so that we can focus on what is really important.”

Former Atlanta City Council President and mayoral hopeful Cathy Woolard said, “It’s a real tragedy for the city of Atlanta and there is more to come. This is another ugly chapter in the history of bribery and corruption in this city.”

Atlanta City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms could not immediately be reached for comment.

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The AJC's Leon Stafford keeps you updated on the latest in the Atlanta mayoral race and everything else going on at City Hall. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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