The city of Atlanta’s inspector general is recommending that former Mayor Kasim Reed reimburse the city for some $83,000 in expenditures because Reed’s administration misled the city council and the public about the source of the money.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher said those expenditures include $25,000 to purchase COBRA health insurance coverage for Reed after he left office in January 2018 and $40,000 for luxury air fares while Reed was still in office a year earlier.
In a statement to Channel 2 Action News, Reed’s spokesperson repeated the former mayor’s argument that all of the spending was legal because it was funded by a salary increase the mayor declined in 2014.
The report said the expenditures were actually made with unrelated city funds.
When Reed left office, he did so without stepping into a new job with health insurance benefits. The city council was cool to Reed’s request to provide nearly $24,565 to pay for extended or COBRA insurance coverage.
The report by Inspector General Shannon Maingault concluded that Reed’s staff unilaterally transferred the money without the approval of the city council.
The $40,000 expenditure was for a trip Reed and several administration members made to South Africa in April 2017.
Everyone flew business class, and after critical reports by Channel 2 Action News and other news organizations, Reed’s office said an unnamed nonprofit would pick up the tab.
Months later, Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the story that $40,000 came from the city and was essentially laundered through the city’s development authority in an effort to make it appear that a nonprofit was paying for the airfare.
Also cited in the OIG report was an $18,514 contribution to Howard University in Washington, DC, Reed’s alma mater.
Reed argued when the expenditures were first reported that their source was money set aside for charitable contributions after Reed declined to accept a pay raise in 2014.
In a statement to Channel 2 Action News, his spokesperson repeats that defense. But Manigault said Reed’s administration misled the council and the public about that money.
“In essence, this was stealing taxpayer money -- no matter how you package it -- and no one is suffering the consequences for it, especially Kasim Reed,” said William Perry, of the good government group Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, a longtime critic of Reed.
Perry said the IG’s report -- even five years after the fact -- does a service by pulling all the spending together: A total of $82,979.
Perry told Channel 2 the city needs to go after the money.
“My message for the current mayor (Andre Dickens) would be step up and show wrongdoing will be corrected, no matter who it was that participated or who it was that benefitted. Wrongdoing is wrongdoing, so fix it and show us that it’s not going to happen again,” Perry said.
The IG’s recommendation is that the city seek reimbursement of all of the money from Reed and issue a W-2 or payment to the former mayor for any income that should be credited to him.
Reed’s spokesperson sent a statement that reads in part: “I what world is it appropriate to personally attack an individual for declining a pay raise and using those funds for charitable purposes?”
The statement said Reed also arranged for the Mayor’s Scholarship Program to receive more than $50,000 from his deferred pay raise, and “those funds were used for the purpose of advancing economic development and helping Atlanta students attend college.”
Mayor Dickens’ office did not provide a statement for our story.