Atlanta City Hall: Former Reed aide charged with bribery


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.

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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.”

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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.

>> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Latest Atlanta City Hall investigative content



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