ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have learned federal authorities are zeroing in on another one of former Mayor Kasim Reed’s former top aides at Atlanta’s City Hall.
A grand jury subpoena delivered to the city last week calls for years of records related to Jim Beard, who served as Reed’s chief financial officer and remained for several months under Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The subpoena specifically asks for travel expenses, which would include records of lavish spending such as Beard’s 2017 stay at the famed Shangra-La Hotel in Paris, where rooms range as high as $4,600 a night.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Atlanta City Hall investigation]
Beard repaid the city more than $10,000 after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News requested his purchasing card records early last year.
Beard said at the time that he thought he had repaid the city for his room upgrade but didn’t realize his check hadn’t cleared. Beard said he was in Paris performing “due diligence” about outdoor furniture used by that city.
Among the more unusual items named in the subpoena are expensive weapons apparently purchased with city funds.
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Authorities want records of purchases of at least two Glock semi-automatic handguns and two AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.
It’s not clear why the city assigned these and any other weapons to Beard, who was the chief financial officer and not a law enforcement officer.
“I really don't understand what that's about. I can't imagine how that would have anything to do with his job. I don't see that you need an AR-15 to protect your financial records,” Georgia State University Collet of Law professor Caren Morrison said.
The subpoena for records about Beard is another signal that federal authorities are focusing on Reed’s one-time inner circle.
[TIMELINE: Atlanta City Hall Investigation]
In May, Channel 2 and the AJC reported that another subpoena demanded records related to $90,000 in city payments routed through a private law firm to Cathy Hampton, Reed’s longtime top legal adviser.
"They're looking at people who can make things happen, who were able to make things happen, you know? They had their hands on the requisite buttons and knobs and levers and they can order subordinates to do things that might not otherwise have happened," Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook said.
“It seems to be getting extremely close to the mayor and it just makes you wonder if they have some reason to focus on him specifically,” Morrison said.
Hampton refunded the money after Bottoms’ chief legal adviser discovered the payments and raised questions about them last year.
Beard's attorney sent a statement that reads, in part:
“After over a year of overturning every rock and sorting through every haystack, the government has been unable to uncover one single piece of evidence against Mr. Beard. Hopefully they will now begin dedicating their limited public resources to more pressing issues such as gang violence and cybercrimes.”
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