ATLANTA — The City of Atlanta is launching an investigation into more than $500,000 in bonuses and party prizes that former Mayor Kasim Reed handed out just prior to leaving office.
The current mayor’s chief of staff, Marva Lewis, told the Atlanta City Council on Wednesday that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' administration wants to hire an outside law firm to get to the bottom of the big-time bonuses and prize money, which she called excessive.
“We can’t reiterate this enough that this is a new day,” Lewis told the council.
Lewis further distanced Bottoms’ administration Wednesday from that of her predecessor.
“The mayor shares the concerns of the public. She shares the concerns that you have,” Lewis said.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant sat in on the council meeting as Lewis addressed the council, emphatic as she addressed the council's concerns over more than $500,000 in taxpayer-funded bonuses and party prizes to members of Mayor Reed's cabinet and dozens of other city employees in the final days of his administration.
“Does the administration deem these bonuses to have been excessive?” City Councilman Howard Shook asked Lewis.
“I believe we do think the amounts, based on the approach that this current administration would take, is quite frankly one that’s excessive,” Lewis said.
Through an open-records request, Channel 2 Action News received documents confirming Reed gave his cabinet bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, totaling about $335,000 in all.
Plus, Reed signed off on another $57,000 for members of his protection unit and other staffers.
Diamant also learned dozens of employees who showed up for a City Hall holiday party last year won raffle prizes totaling more than $36,000, plus nearly $32,000 shared by winners of lip-sync and ugly-sweater contests.
“I can honestly say that it would not be the approach of this administration to hand out taxpayer dollars by way of raffles and prizes at company or a city holiday party, so we get that concern as well,” Lewis said.
Lewis also told the council that awarding performance or retention bonuses aren't necessarily bad, but Mayor Bottoms will seek out a fairer way to do it.
An emailed statement from Reed's spokesperson this week said, in part:
“These bonuses were appropriate, and Mayor Reed believes that the individuals who received the bonuses were worthy of them based upon their contributions to the City of Atlanta’s unprecedented growth and fiscal stability.”
Cox Media Group