To Felicia Moore, spending at Atlanta City Hall is out of control and must be reined in.
“Bonuses were given out at the end of the last mayor’s term,” the Atlanta City Council president said of the Kasim Reed administration’s alleged unauthorized spending, which is under investigation and could be as high as about $500,000. “Those are issues the (local media) has been trying to get information about for a while. The current administration (under Keisha Lance Bottoms) has made a pledge to be more transparent and release more documents. As those documents are released, the FBI is taking those documents and doing their own investigation.”
Moore spoke on that topic and others regarding the city at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly breakfast meeting April 26 at City Club of Buckhead. Corruption, including spending and the city’s procurement process, dominated her talk.
Moore was elected president in a December runoff after serving five terms as the District 9 council member. She said transparency, including Bottoms’ decision earlier this month to launch Open Checkbook, an online financial data portal that allows the public to view city documents such as salaries and contracts, is a step in the right direction.
Moore said though the city’s corrupt employees should be weeded out, not everyone working for Atlanta is bad.
“We’ve got to pull those rotten apples out but not the whole bunch. (Most) people serve the city with decency, honesty and integrity,” she said.
In a Q&A after Moore’s speech, District 54 State Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta, asked about the bonuses paid last year, adding, “With your background in pensions, whether the bonuses, such as $15,000, are being considered, based on the city’s pension plan, earnings?”
Moore said, “It was already discovered but was then clarified. … We’re trying to clear that up. I think the bonuses were not legal. There were prizes of $2,000 and $3,000 for winning a lip sync contest and an ugly sweater contest. One of those sweaters featured yours truly, Mary Norwood (pointing to the 2017 mayoral candidate, who attended the meeting). That part of giving the door prizes is a whole other thing. That wasn’t legal either.”
She also talked about the corruption case regarding contracts given to vendors, some of whom have been accused of paying bribes to city officials. Three suspects have already been arrested and pleaded guilty and at least one, Shandarrick Barnes, was sentenced earlier this month.
Moore said she hopes to reform the city’s procurement process by requiring the mayor’s office to provide more info to the council as contracts are awarded to vendors during the approval process.
“What I want to establish is something I call IPRO, independent procurement review officers,” she said. “These people will work under the office of the independent internal auditor and directly report to the auditor. What they will do is review the procurement process, at this point, and it may change, I have for contracts of $1 million or more. They would review those contracts through the process, make sure the procurement file is adequate.”
Spending came up again when association member Roopa Bhandari questioned why Bottoms earlier this month asked nearly everyone in her cabinet to resign.
“I can’t speak for what she’s trying to do other than asking for their resignations,” Moore said. “… Anne Torres, who was the communications director, is definitely gone. Jim Beard was announced as gone. He is still the CFO; however, he is not physically here in Atlanta. He is out of town taking classes that cost $60,000 and are being paid for by the city. He will be gone by (May) 18. … I hope we could get in touch with him. I’m going to pursue that as long as he’s on the payroll.”
Regarding the March 22 ransomware cyberattack the city is still recovering from, in a post-speech interview she said, “I have a memo that I haven’t read yet that is sort of an update. Other than that, I haven’t gotten any more specifics than what you may have seen in the paper.”
At least one media outlet has reported the attack originated in one of the city council’s offices. But Moore said officials have not said yet where it started “because I think they’re wondering what information they give will make our city more vulnerable (to future attacks).”