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Atlanta City Hall bribery probe: Feds eye mayor’s deputy chief of staff

Atlanta City Hall bribery probe: Feds eye mayor’s deputy chief of staff

Nearly six years ago a man who had defrauded elderly investors out of more than $1 million convinced the City of Atlanta that he could turn restaurant grease into fuel and prevent it from being illegally dumped. Now federal investigators want to know how his scheme slid past the City Council and the nature of his relationship to the mayor’s deputy chief of staff: Katrina Taylor Parks. Two subpoenas...
Advocates concerned new proposal undermines progress at DeKalb animal shelter

Advocates concerned new proposal undermines progress at DeKalb animal shelter

Animal welfare advocates are sounding an early alarm about DeKalb County’s plans to negotiate a new contract for operations of its animal shelter. They worry that years of progress leading to more pet adoptions and less euthanasia might be undermined by provisions the county has floated adding to any new agreement. One new provision would require animals to remain in the shelter longer...
Fulton County is named for... Oh, wait... No, it’s not. Maybe.

Fulton County is named for... Oh, wait... No, it’s not. Maybe.

If, like me, you grew up thinking that Fulton County was named for a certain famous 19th century inventor, well, you’d be wrong. Or maybe not. Turns out Georgia’s most populous county gets its name from a... civil engineer?  Or maybe not. So in stock market terms, sell Robert Fulton and buy Hamilton Fulton. Or -- you guessed it -- maybe...
Check out the billion-dollar trail network Gwinnett wants to build

Check out the billion-dollar trail network Gwinnett wants to build

Gwinnett officials have adopted the master plan they hope will guide the creation of a 320-mile, $1 billion trail network throughout the county. The plan, which was approved Tuesday by the county commission, includes nine signature trails that officials hope will be built in the coming years (and decades). Those signature trails include: the Western Gwinnett Bikeway, which would stretch 18 miles from...
Gwinnett approves deal to treat sewage from city of Buford

Gwinnett approves deal to treat sewage from city of Buford

Gwinnett County approved Tuesday a deal that would allow it to treat up to a million gallons a day of the city of Buford’s sewage. Buford would pay the county $1.375 million per year for the privilege, officials said.  The intergovernmental agreement approved Tuesday by  Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners would allow Buford to connect its existing sewer system to the county&rsquo...
DeKalb moving forward with SPLOST implementation

DeKalb moving forward with SPLOST implementation

DeKalb County is in the process of evaluating proposals from three companies that are interested in serving as program manager of the $388 million SPLOST program. Proceeds from the one-percent special purpose local options sales tax will go toward improving roads and public safety throughout the county. Voters approved the tax increase in November. The SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee...
Union cancels MARTA paratransit strike set for today

Union cancels MARTA paratransit strike set for today

MARTA paratransit workers have called off a one-day strike scheduled for today, citing progress in contract negotiations. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 732 had planned to stage a walkout to protest what it said are unsafe buses and dangerous working conditions. The strike would have affected MARTA’s paratransit service for seniors and the disabled, but not regular bus or rail service....
Atlanta corruption probe seeks former Mayor Kasim Reed’s records

Atlanta corruption probe seeks former Mayor Kasim Reed’s records

The sprawling federal investigation into Atlanta City Hall corruption has now reached the office of former Mayor Kasim Reed. An April 6 subpoena from a federal grand jury demands information about charges made to Reed’s city-issued credit card, along with information about Reed’s brother, Tracy; political consultant Rev. Mitzi Bickers, who was indicted on bribery charges last week; and...
Gwinnett candidate explains federal tax liens claiming he owes $200K

Gwinnett candidate explains federal tax liens claiming he owes $200K

The Internal Revenue Service filed tax liens four years ago against a local attorney who is running for state court judge in Gwinnett County, accusing him of owing more than $200,000 to the government. The attorney, Lance Tyler, says the actual number is much, much less — and that the liens filed against him and his wife were a mistake to begin with, the result of an accountant’s clerical...
Former Mayor Kasim Reed named in Atlanta City Hall corruption subpoena

Former Mayor Kasim Reed named in Atlanta City Hall corruption subpoena

For the first time, federal prosecutors are seeking records of former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in the sprawling federal investigation of City Hall corruption. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday received a copy of an April 6 subpoena from a federal grand jury seeking, among other things, Reed’s city-issued credit card statements and other information related to reimbursements made to...
Atlanta purchasing chief Adam Smith ordered to report to N.C. prison

Atlanta purchasing chief Adam Smith ordered to report to N.C. prison

Adam Smith, who for 14 years was Atlanta’s top purchasing officer, has been ordered to report to a North Carolina federal prison to begin serving a 27-month sentence for his role in a City Hall bribery scheme. Smith, a graduate of Yale, Morehouse and Georgetown Law School, must report to the Federal Medical Center Butner on Wednesday. The facility, for inmates with special medical needs...
Looking to hire 155 officers, DeKalb Police tries new strategies

Looking to hire 155 officers, DeKalb Police tries new strategies

Detective Lesa Robinson needs a tissue and a few seconds to compose herself. She is in the middle of an exhibit hall at the Georgia International Convention Center and someone has asked her what it was like being a female officer patrolling the busy streets of DeKalb County. The memory of her first day riding alone gets her emotional, but telling the story of the first time she called for backup brings...
Atlanta Municipal Court back in business (but using paper)

Atlanta Municipal Court back in business (but using paper)

Atlanta’s municipal court held regular proceedings Monday for the first time since cyberattackers brought the city’s digital infrastructure to its knees last month, and those with dates in traffic court and elsewhere this week are expected to report as scheduled. But the underlying issues don’t exactly appear to be resolved.  A city of Atlanta spokesperson said the...
Saving Main Street: Powder Springs latest town seeking reinvention

Saving Main Street: Powder Springs latest town seeking reinvention

Once a Victorian resort town known for its restorative waters, Powder Springs is struggling.  A bookstore, consignment shop and florist anchor the downtown, while many of the red brick storefronts stand empty. New restaurants come and go. The Country Store of Seven Springs, housed in a white clapboard building believed to date back to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, has been closed since 2012...
Atlanta Central Library seeks space for the future to meet new needs

Atlanta Central Library seeks space for the future to meet new needs

What is the future of the library? Whatever it is, the director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System wants the city’s Central Library to be able to adapt to it. A plan to renovate the Central Library, unveiled Wednesday, seeks to modernize the downtown library by adding more technology, a flexible events space including a demonstration kitchen and leasable space inside...
Metro Syrians: U.S. should have targeted Assad

Metro Syrians: U.S. should have targeted Assad

U.S.-led military attacks in Syria were focused on the wrong target, some metro Atlanta Syrians said Saturday. Some said they don’t believe Syrian President Bashar Assad will be dissuaded from continuing to attack and kill his own people by the coordinated strikes that the United States, France and Britian carried out against three chemical-related sites in Syria. The airstrikes were in...
FDA to block bulk sales of pure caffeine, citing Georgia, Ohio deaths

FDA to block bulk sales of pure caffeine, citing Georgia, Ohio deaths

The morning that James Wade Sweatt first tried a powdered caffeine supplement, his heart went into cardiac arrest. For the next 11 days, he was in a coma. Despite efforts to save him, the 24-year-old Alpharetta engineer died. Now, nearly four years after his death, the federal Food and Drug Administration has announced a crackdown on highly concentrated caffeine products, saying they pose a significant...
Gwinnett transit plan now includes rail. Here’s how you can weigh in.

Gwinnett transit plan now includes rail. Here’s how you can weigh in.

The folks from Gwinnett County are wrapping up the creation of their comprehensive transit plan — a more-than-year-long study that, among many other things, includes a proposal to extend heavy rail from the Doraville MARTA station to the Norcross area.  Before the plan is completed, the county will be collecting one more round of public input. Below is a list of formal public meetings regarding...
Atlanta hires pricey outside lawyers for public records case

Atlanta hires pricey outside lawyers for public records case

At rates of up to $855 an hour, Atlanta has retained two attorneys from an international law firm to manage its response to a GBI investigation into open records violations, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News have learned. Legal experts endorsed the city’s need to retain an outside law firm to handle the case, since the city itself is the subject of the investigation...
Gwinnett’s transit plans now include running heavy rail into county

Gwinnett’s transit plans now include running heavy rail into county

Gwinnett County’s long-range plans for transit expansion include a bit of heavy rail after all. Officials said Thursday afternoon that the county’s comprehensive transit plan — the near-finished version of which will be revealed in a new round of public meetings that begins Saturday — will include the recommendation that rail be extended from the existing Doraville MARTA station...
Burglar alarm calls in Sandy Springs will go unanswered for some

Burglar alarm calls in Sandy Springs will go unanswered for some

Sandy Springs will no longer respond to burglar alarms from five companies that either failed to register with the city or failed to pay fines for false alarms. Three of those companies — Patterson Security Services, RTA Security and Security Sales & Service — have a total of 52 customers in Sandy Springs. The other two companies, Banner Security Systems, Inc. and Safe Home...
AJC, Ch. 2 ask AG to mediate open records complaint against Atlanta

AJC, Ch. 2 ask AG to mediate open records complaint against Atlanta

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News filed a complaint Wednesday with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr alleging “a culture of political interference” with open records requests at Atlanta City Hall, and requesting mediation to implement reforms for repeated violations of state law. The complaint outlines 10 examples of alleged violations of the Georgia Open Records...
Food, exercise boutiques set to open in new City Springs development

Food, exercise boutiques set to open in new City Springs development

Sandy Springs’ new downtown development, which is scheduled to begin to open in the coming weeks, has three businesses focused on fitness and four restaurants. Those businesses will join an arts center and Sandy Springs’ new city hall near the intersection of Johnson Ferry Road and Mount Vernon Highway. “This is an exciting day for us,” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said...
Midtown residents still aren’t sold on development near Piedmont Park

Midtown residents still aren’t sold on development near Piedmont Park

In the four months since a proposed development at 10th Street and Monroe Drive drew the ire of Atlanta residents concerned about adding more density to a busy corner near Piedmont Park and the Beltline, residents say there have been no updates to the plans that would assuage their concerns. The project, by Fuqua Development and 10th & Monroe LLC, would put a hotel, a grocery store...
Feds: Georgia DOT partly responsible for I-85 bridge collapse

Feds: Georgia DOT partly responsible for I-85 bridge collapse

Federal investigators have concluded the Georgia Department of Transportation is partly to blame for the fire that destroyed part of I-85 in Atlanta and crippled the region’s traffic for weeks. Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report that found the department’s decision to stockpile construction materials under I-85 contributed to the inferno that...
Ex-Gwinnett cops charged in traffic stop beating waive arraignment

Ex-Gwinnett cops charged in traffic stop beating waive arraignment

The ex-Gwinnett police officers charged in connection with a 2017 traffic stop beating have waived their arraignments, court officials confirmed Wednesday.  Former Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and former Master Officer Robert McDonald had been scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning, almost exactly a year after the controversial traffic stop near Lawrenceville. During an arraignment, defendants...
Atlanta City Hall shakeup: Who was on Mayor Bottoms’ resignation letter list?

Atlanta City Hall shakeup: Who was on Mayor Bottoms’ resignation letter list?

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms asked for the resignation letters of 26 high-level city officials on April 9. In an April 10 press conference, Bottoms said that not all of the resignations will be accepted. Ria Aiken – Director of Emergency Preparedness Randall Slaughter - Interim Fire Chief  John Gaffney – Chief Financial Officer Stephanie Stuckey Benfield – Director of...
New portal will allow citizens to track Atlanta government spending

New portal will allow citizens to track Atlanta government spending

Standing in front of hundreds of City of Atlanta employees on Tuesday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms delivered messages to citizens concerned about City Hall corruption and to critics who say her administration is too closely tied to former Mayor Kasim Reed. “This week,” Bottoms said, “is about speaking softly and carrying a big stick.” The stick came out Monday, when Bottoms...
Atlanta launches portal allowing citizens to track city spending

Atlanta launches portal allowing citizens to track city spending

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Tuesday unveiled her plan to create an online portal through which citizens can track city spending. Called Atlanta’s Open Checkbook, Bottoms said the system has largely been built out and should be operational within two months. She said it will allow residents to review spending on vendors, by departments, or by individual city officials who charge expenses...
DeKalb CEO says sewer spills down 31 percent

DeKalb CEO says sewer spills down 31 percent

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond said there were 44 reported sewage spills in the first quarter of 2018 compared to 64 in 2017, a 31 percent drop. It is too soon to say whether the number reflects a trend that will carry out for the whole year, Thurmond said. This statistic was part of an update the CEO provided to the Board of Commissioners about the county’s effort to comply with a consent decree...
As 100-day mark nears, Atlanta mayor asks cabinet to resign

As 100-day mark nears, Atlanta mayor asks cabinet to resign

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told all of her cabinet members on Monday to hand in their resignations by the end of the day.The group includes about 35 top city officials. Once she’s made further assessments, Bottoms said in a statement, she’ll determine which resignations to accept. The statement did not provide a time-frame for the assessment.
Shandarrick Barnes gets prison for threatening Atlanta bribery figure

Shandarrick Barnes gets prison for threatening Atlanta bribery figure

In the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 11, 2015, Shandarrick Barnes had a message to deliver to a longtime Atlanta contractor who was talking to the feds, and Barnes chose to send it with brick. Printed with red ink was an unmistakable threat to Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr.: “Shut up ER, keep your mouth shut!!!” Mitchell awoke that morning to the sound of shattered glass and found...
Atlanta City Hall shakeup: Mayor asks entire cabinet to resign

Atlanta City Hall shakeup: Mayor asks entire cabinet to resign

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday told her cabinet members that she wants their resignations by the end of the day. A city official said that Bottoms has also told her cabinet — a group that includes 35 top city officials — that she will decide by the end of the week whose resignations she will accept and whose she will decline. That official, who is not being identified because...
DeKalb to provide updates on sewer system clean up, cybersecurity

DeKalb to provide updates on sewer system clean up, cybersecurity

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond will update the public about the county’s ongoing efforts to comply with a federal consent decree to clean up its water and sewer systems. Thurmond’s update, the second of his tenure as CEO, will be provided at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners’ meeting at 9 a.m. He is expected to talk about progress made since he took office in January 2017, such as...
Atlanta bribery figure gets 37 months in brick and rat intimidation case

Atlanta bribery figure gets 37 months in brick and rat intimidation case

UPDATE at 3:45 p.m.: Shandarrick Barnes, a former city of Atlanta employee who admitted last year to trying to intimidate a key witness in the City Hall bribery investigation, was sentenced Monday to 37 months in federal prison.  Barnes, 41, admitted to attempting to intimidate longtime Atlanta construction contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr., a key witness in the federal probe who...
Bribery charges expose depth of corruption facing Atlanta’s new mayor

Bribery charges expose depth of corruption facing Atlanta’s new mayor

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has said the city won’t know how deeply the city’s procurement process has been exploited until federal prosecutors complete their bribery investigation at City Hall. An indictment unsealed Thursday indicates Bottoms could be waiting a while. The indictment against The Rev. Mitzi Bickers suggests the new mayor will have to tackle pervasive vulnerabilities...
Sandy Springs beginning to collect alarm company fines ahead of ban

Sandy Springs beginning to collect alarm company fines ahead of ban

Eight alarm companies that operate in Sandy Springs have paid the city more than $8,000 in fines following a threat that police there would stop responding to those companies’ calls if the money was not paid. But there are still 31 other businesses whose customers may find their contracts worthless if fines are not paid by the close of business Tuesday. Even in refusing to respond...
Fulton County has a court date to defend freezing property values

Fulton County has a court date to defend freezing property values

Fulton County will go to court May 30 to defend county commissioners’ decision to freeze 2017 residential property values at 2016 levels. Alan C. Harvey, the DeKalb County judge who granted the county’s request for a temporary collection order to allow governments to collect taxes last year after the county’s tax digest was rejected, will hear the matter, filed in...
Cobb faces tricky negotiation over MARTA

Cobb faces tricky negotiation over MARTA

Will all or part of Cobb join MARTA, and who gets to decide?  That will depend on whether county commissioners and lawmakers can agree on a map for a proposed special service district, a major sticking point in the negotiations over the regional transit bill currently awaiting Governor Nathan Deal’s signature. The version of the bill that passed includes a complicated compromise that...
Several Fulton, Atlanta tax relief bills will go to voters in November

Several Fulton, Atlanta tax relief bills will go to voters in November

In the final minutes of this year’s legislative session, Georgia lawmakers passed a measure that could lower the property taxes Atlanta homeowners pay to support schools. But another proposal that would have further exempted seniors from paying school taxes didn’t make it to a vote before the midnight deadline. Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, sponsored SB 485 and SB 486, the two measures...
Heads up, Gwinnett: Your property assessments are in the mail

Heads up, Gwinnett: Your property assessments are in the mail

Your 2018 property assessments are in the mail, Gwinnett, so monitor those mailboxes. But remember: assessments are not tax bills. Gwinnett officials said the county’s board of assessors mailed about 280,000 assessments to local home and business owners on Friday. The notices include the estimated value of residents’ taxable property and provides an explanation of any change in value...
DeKalb NAACP backs removing Confederate symbols at Stone Mountain but not the sculpture

DeKalb NAACP backs removing Confederate symbols at Stone Mountain but not the sculpture

The NAACP DeKalb County Branch is out with a list of recommendations for Stone Mountain Park, but removing the massive relief sculpture of Confederate generals is not among them. Getting rid of the carving would be too controversial and costly now but could be revisited later, the NAACP said. Instead, its members are pushing other changes they say carry a manageable price tag.  The NAACP&rsquo...
Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts in car hit by drunk driver

Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts in car hit by drunk driver

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts was a passenger in a car hit by a drunk driver Thursday morning. In a statement, Pitts said that neither he nor the driver of his car sustained “serious injuries” in the two-vehicle accident in Sandy Springs. Pitts was on his way to a meeting around 10 a.m. when the accident occurred, he said. The driver of the other car was charged...
Mitzi Bickers, politico and pastor, indicted in Atlanta bribery case

Mitzi Bickers, politico and pastor, indicted in Atlanta bribery case

For most of her adult life, Mitzi Bickers’ public persona has been with a white clerical collar around her neck while she ministered to people in her church, in jails or at funerals. On Thursday, Rev. Bickers wore handcuffs and leg irons under a gray pantsuit to a first appearance in federal court, after an 11-count indictment was unsealed that charged her with conspiracy to commit bribery,...
Massive, gleaming new downtown marks Sandy Springs’ evolution as a city

Massive, gleaming new downtown marks Sandy Springs’ evolution as a city

Every few months, Rusty Paul visits the Arlington Memorial Park cemetery. He places a stone on the grave of Eva Galambos, the founding mother of Sandy Springs. And he tells her about the progress of its new downtown. In the 1970s, when Galambos first dreamed of a city of Sandy Springs, she could not have imagined what it is today. Now 13 years old, the North Fulton municipality of 105,000 people is...
After mold discovery, fixes coming to DeKalb jail

After mold discovery, fixes coming to DeKalb jail

An overhaul of the DeKalb County Jail to fix issues with leaky plumbing and mold was announced by Sheriff Jeffrey Mann today. The renovation will cost $1.5 million and is expected to take three months. Mann said that a study concluded the mold is likely caused by leaks in the showers where inmates are housed but poses no immediate health threats. The 1 million-square-foot detention center is located...
Arraignment set for ex-Gwinnett cops charged in traffic stop beating

Arraignment set for ex-Gwinnett cops charged in traffic stop beating

The now-former Gwinnett County police officers charged with assaulting a motorist during a 2017 traffic stop are scheduled to be in court next week.  Former Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and former Master Officer Robert McDonald are scheduled to be arraigned in front of Superior Court Judge Warren Davis on Friday, April 13. During an arraignment, defendants are given the opportunity to enter...
Proposed 350-home subdivision draws big opposition in ‘rural Gwinnett’

Proposed 350-home subdivision draws big opposition in ‘rural Gwinnett’

It’s not that easy to find a truly rural pocket of Gwinnett County these days — but if there’s one anywhere, it’s here. In this southeast corner of Georgia’s second most populous county, there are subdivisions and other signs of typical suburban life. But they’re fewer and farther between than in other parts of the rapidly urbanizing county, and they’re otherwise...
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