After the Atlanta City Council voted 12-0 in October to approve the sale of a $291 million water and wastewater revenue bond, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed the resolution Oct. 31.
The online version of Resolution 18-R-4330 (117 pages) contains the legislation itself and Exhibit A, which is a highly summarized version of a larger preliminary official statement of the revenue bond.
A search of the 117 pages will show that they contain references to each of the Appendices A through E, but all of them were omitted from the resolution online, and they are only available if one requests the full copy. Michael Smith, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, said in general the city provides summary documents, such as the 117-page one, online because the full documents are too large.
However, the resolution online is what was voted on by the council and what is available to the public through the city’s “final action legislation” webpage.
The preliminary official statement (352 pages), which should have been available before the final vote, contains each of the Appendices A through E along with detailed information, most of which had been omitted from the online resolution.
During Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, Bottoms was a council member. In April 2017, the council, with Bottoms voting yes, passed Resolution 17-R-3633 (395 pages), which called for approving the sale of a $226 million water and wastewater revenue bond.
That document contained the legislation itself, and beginning on the 10th page, it included the complete preliminary official statement.
Both the 2017 and 2018 resolutions generally describe the two different wastewater discharge permits issued by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to Atlanta.
The permit for Atlanta’s East Area CSO system authorizes properly treated discharges into Intrenchment Creek. And the permit for Atlanta’s West Area CSO system authorizes properly treated discharges into the Chattahoochee River and/or Proctor, Tanyard and Clear creeks.
Neither permit authorizes discharges into the other’s permitted area.
Flow transfer system
Both resolutions describe 14 major spills of raw sewage (in the 2018 resolution; type Ctrl+F and then type “14 major spills” and hit enter) into the East Area’s Intrenchment Creek and the flow transfer system which pumps sewage from the East Area to the West Area Tunnel.
The Neighbor obtained a copy of a multi-part Georgia Open Records Act request that was sent to the Atlanta Department of Watershed Management along the multi-part responses from that department.
In regard to the flow transfer system, the department wrote, “After meeting with colleagues from various departments this [sic] on 6/6/2019, I’ve learned the following as it relates to your open records request: The excerpts that you provided are unknown to us in origin and are inconsistent with our CSO Systems and Flow Transfer Systems. … Nevertheless, we are unable to make a correlation to the excerpts you provided with any records that we’ve created and/or maintain. Moreover, there is NO interconnection with our East CSO System and West CSO System.”
A Nov. 28 letter from the EPD acknowledges receiving Atlanta’s $365,513 payment for the fines associated with various violations including spills from September 2015 to December 2017, which is when the 14 major spills occurred.
Appendix B omissionsAmong the appendices that were omitted from the 2018 online resolution is Appendix B, the municipal advisor’s feasibility study.
It evaluates many issues about current and future funding needs related to the city’s sewer program, especially the renewal of the 1% municipal option sales tax (MOST), and it includes technical information about the status of Atlanta’s sewer program and its facilities.
The city retained the Galardi Rothstein Group to be the feasibility consultant, along with a team of municipal consultants to develop the feasibility study. The Neighbor has obtained copies of emails which involve a principal of the Galardi Rothstein Group, Eric Rothstein.
Information from Rothstein refutes Atlanta’s open records response that the flow transfer system excerpts are “... unknown to us in origin. ... We are unable to make a correlation to the excerpts you provided with any records that we’ve created and/or maintain.”
To the contrary, Rothstein wrote, “The text that you are quoting (about the flow transfer system) was either provided directly by city of Atlanta engineering staff or by CIP (capital improvement program) project consultants and reviewed by DWM (department of watershed management) engineering staff. They would be in the best position to discuss the flow transfer system.”
Appendix B also provides details about the Galardi Rothstein Group and the separate team of municipal consultants, in particular BGR and especially the JP2 Team.
Ten days have passed since an email was sent to Bottoms asking her a) to explain why the entire “Appendix B had been omitted from Resolution 18-R-4330”; b) why references to the “JP2 Team” were omitted from the legislation and; c) to provide a greater-detailed explanation which explains where and whatever actually happened that caused the 14 major spills.
The email requested that she “reply all” and copies were sent to The Neighbor, Commissioner Kishia Powell of the department of watershed management, City Attorney Nina Hickson and all council members. The Neighbor has not received a response from Bottoms.
While the 2018 resolution refers to the Galardi Rothstein Group, it is only the 2018 preliminary official statement (352 pages) which describes the JP2 Team as being comprised of the Prad Group, Tetra Tech and R2T.
Rothstein had been employed by CH2M-Hill from 1994-2007 before forming the Galardi Rothstein Group.
Sometime prior to 1998, CH2M-Hill had entered into a joint-venture relationship with the Thacker Operating Co., and the joint venture was the lead consultant for Atlanta’s sewer program until the early 2000s.
According to media reports from 2005, Gary Thacker was the head of a company that was a partner in portions of two major public works projects for Atlanta: the $3 billion sewer reconstruction program and the $5.4 billion expansion of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
He was also accused of paying a Houston official to get government contract work from that city. In Atlanta, Thacker’s company would share in as much as $22 million in fees on the sewer project and $150 million on the airport work.
According to news reports, Thacker’s firm and its executives donated $7,575 to former Mayor Bill Campbell’s 1997 campaign and helped purchase a new Lexus for Campbell when he left office. Thacker, the company and two family members gave $9,000 to Mayor Shirley Franklin’s 2001 campaign. Franklin said in 2005 she was unaware of the Houston case involving Thacker.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice news release, in January 2006 Thacker pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in honest services mail and wire fraud.
Prad, Tetra Tech
The Prad Group is an Atlanta-based architectural and engineering and construction firm. One of its leaders, Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari, in February was indicted on 51 federal counts that included conspiratorial bribery, bribery, tampering with a witness, tax evasion, money laundering and structuring.
According to a U.S. Attorney’s office news release, Jafari is accused of making bribes to Atlanta Chief Procurement Officer Adam Smith from at least 2014 through January 2017, as part of the city’s federal corruption scandal. According to a news report, in September 2017, just weeks before the mayoral election, Smith pleaded guilty to accepting more than $30,000 in payments from an unnamed vendor, later determined to be Jafari.
An Atlanta media outlet also reported on an earlier federal raid of the offices of the Prad Group, which worked on design projects at the Atlanta airport and with the city’s watershed department.
Prad, or joint ventures involving that company, were paid at least $60 million for work from 2009 to 2014, an analysis of city invoices obtained by one media outlet showed.
Since 2015, it appears Prad and its partners billed the city another $39 million, according to purchase order data examined by the media outlet. It’s not clear how much of the total Prad was actually paid.
Tetra Tech, a Pasadena, California-based consulting and engineering firm, was also hired to oversee expansion of DeKalb County’s Snapfinger Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility in 2013. It has been ensnared in a federal investigation involving former DeKalb Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, who was indicted on extortion and bribery charges in May, according to a news report.
Also, Jafari and his wife Nancy donated thousands to the election campaigns of Reed, Barnes-Sutton, Bottoms and four other Atlanta council members (Natalyn Archibong, Michael Julian Bond, C.T. Martin and Aaron Watson), plus other DeKalb commissioners (Elaine Boyer, who served a year in jail on mail fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges between 2015 and 2016, and Lee May) in 2012 and 2013, according to documents posted to the state ethics commission’s website.
One DeKalb commission candidate Jeff Jafari donated funds to is Edmond Richardson, who ran for the Super District 6 post in 2012 and resigned as CEO May’s chief of staff in 2014 amid reports he steered a county contract to an ex-official who pleaded guilty to an unrelated bribery charge, according to a news report.
The next Atlanta council meeting is Aug. 5.