A second member of former Mayor Kasim Reed’s cabinet has been charged with conspiracy and accepting bribes in the federal corruption investigation at Atlanta City Hall.
Katrina Taylor-Parks, a 23-year veteran of City Hall, was accused of accepting a $2,000 bribe in 2013 through a company she owned. Her husband, DeAnthony Parks, also allegedly accepted a $2,000 payment but was not charged.
The complaint, unsealed Wednesday, said the unnamed vendor who paid the couple received more than $80,000 from the city in the months just after the alleged bribes.
RELATED CONTENT: BONUSES
- See who got bonuses from former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed
- Reed doles out $500k in bonuses, gifts on way out
- Year-end bonuses under Reed cost Atlanta taxpayers $811k
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was able to identify the vendor as BridgeNet LLC, by cross-referencing the payments in the complaint to a database of city-issued checks. In 2013, BridgeNet received a no-bid contract with the city for WiFi service at Piedmont Park, the AJC found. It was led by Paul Marshall, a Marietta man who has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in an unrelated case.
Prosecutors subpoenaed records related to Marshall, Taylor-Parks and her husband in April.
Taylor-Parks joined the Reed administration as deputy chief of staff in 2010 and wielded significant influence, with the primary responsibility of whipping up support on the council to advance Reed’s agenda — including approval of contracts. She stayed on in that role with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Taylor-Parks, 49, was scheduled to make a first appearance in court Wednesday, but her attorney told the court that she was rushed to a Douglasville hospital and admitted earlier in the day for an undisclosed illness.
Her attorney, Jay Strongwater, acknowledged before the hearing that Taylor-Parks accepted money from a city vendor “for non-city business.” When asked if that meant the payment was for legitimate work, he replied: “We believe so.”
Shortly after the aborted hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office released a statement saying Taylor-Parks was “expected to plead guilty” Aug. 13.
Three others convicted in the corruption investigation have followed a similar process: Each waived indictment and were charged in a complaint known as a criminal information; pleaded guilty; and agreed to cooperate with the investigation in exchange for a reduced sentence.
That group includes Reed’s former Chief Procurement Officer Adam Smith, who supplied investigators with secret recordings before he was sentenced to 27 months in prison for accepting bribes.
“As the Deputy Chief of Staff, the City of Atlanta and its citizens placed immeasurable trust in Parks to act in the best interests of the city,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said in a prepared statement. “Regrettably, Parks allegedly exchanged the power and trust given to her for bribe money.”
RELATED CONTENT: CABINET SHAKE-UP
- View Mayor Bottoms’ list of cabinet members asked for resignation letters
- See who’s leaving Mayor Bottoms’ team
- Atlanta mayor proposes ‘transparency officer’ at City Hall
Taylor-Parks, who made $200,000 a year, no longer works for the city. She gave the city notice of her resignation July 30, saying her last day on the payroll would be Aug. 13. She has been on paid medical leave since April 17, the day a federal subpoena naming her was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Bottoms, who served on City Council before being elected mayor, said the charges against Taylor-Parks “stand in stark contrast to her reputation as an effective and experienced City Hall executive.”
“Her service to this Administration was brief,” Lance Bottoms said in a statement emailed to the AJC. “Our Administration has been steadfast in its commitment to create extraordinary and innovative new transparency safeguards, while at the same time assisting federal prosecutors each step of the way in their ongoing investigation.”
Although prosecutors did not name the city vendor referred to in the criminal complaint, the $80,099 in payments line up with checks written by the city in 2013 to a company named BridgeNet — $11,750 on April 22; $15,000 on June 21; $17,200 on July 19; and $36,149 on July 31.
In September 2012, the City Council authorized the Reed administration to negotiate a sole-sourced contract with FOGFuels, another one of Marshall’s ventures, to turn restaurant grease into biofuel. But the company’s project never got off the ground and the city said in April that it never entered into a contract with FOG.
In 2013, Marshall was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misusing $2 million in investor funds. Last November, Marshall was criminally indicted in the scheme. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison.
Caren Morrison, a law professor at Georgia State University and a former federal prosecutor in New York, said the latest charges suggest the government believes Taylor-Parks will cooperate and provide information on others.
“You wouldn’t bother to have someone plead guilty in a criminal information unless there is a bigger fish you are pursuing,” Morrison said.
AJC data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this report.
Katrina Taylor-Parks timeline
Former Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor-Parks allegedly “conspired to accept bribes” from an unidentified city vendor, which got tens of thousands of dollars of contract work, federal prosecutors allege. Documents obtained by the AJC show city payments to the unnamed vendor align with those made to a company called BridgeNet LLC, which had a contract to install WiFi at Piedmont Park.
Oct. 3, 2012: Katrina Taylor-Parks, created a company called TKP Solutions LLC. Parks is listed as registered agent and organizer, and the company is based at her Douglasville address.
Jan. 28, 2013: An unidentified vendor wrote a $2,000 check to TKP Solutions.
Feb. 15, 2013: Taylor-Parks asserts in her city financial disclosure statement that she was not self-employed and did not work for any entity outside city government.
March 28, 2013: The vendor wrote a $2,000 check to Taylor-Parks’ husband, DeAnthony Parks.
April 22, 2013: The vendor deposited a $11,750 check from the city of Atlanta into a business account the vendor controlled.
June 21, 2013: The vendor deposited a $15,000 check from the city into a business account the vendor controlled.
July 19, 2013: The vendor deposited a $17,200 check from the city into a business account the vendor controlled.
July 31, 2013: The vendor deposited a $36,149 check from the city into a business account the vendor controlled.
March 27, 2014: Taylor-Parks again attests to the city that she was not self-employed nor was she employed by an outside entity.
April 3, 2018: A federal grand jury issued a subpoena seeking records related to Taylor-Parks, including personnel documents, ethics pledges and communications between Parks and a Marietta investor named Paul Marshall and numerous companies connected to Marshall. The companies included FOGFuels, Bridge Securities, Bridge Equity and BridgeNet LLC.
April 23, 2018: A federal grand jury issued a subpoena seeking records from the city related to DeAnthony Parks.
May 9, 2018: Marshall, who had pleaded guilty in November to wire fraud in connection to an investment scheme, is sentenced to 6 years and 9 months in prison, and ordered to pay nearly $2.9 million in restitution.
July 30, 2018: Taylor-Parks writes a letter to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announcing her intent to retire from city government.
Wednesday: Taylor-Parks is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.
Sources: Atlanta City Hall records, city emails, grand jury subpoenas, Georgia Secretary of State corporations records and court filings.
The AJC has been covering developments in the federal corruption probe of City Hall since it first became public in January 2017, and maintains the most extensive archive of news stories about the investigation. Find them online at myAJC.com.