Investigation: Judge spent thousands in tax dollars on lavish gifts, party

ATLANTA — An investigation by Channel 2 Action News and our investigative partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and has found that an Atlanta judge spent thousands of tax dollars on lavish gifts, a party sponsored by then-Mayor Kasim Reed, plus gold seal letterhead.

Last May, Channel 2 Action News broke the story that Judge Terrinee Gundy is under investigation by the state's judicial ethics watchdog. Gundy was appointed to the municipal court by Reed in 2013.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher has learned her spending is just one of the issues.

Gundy has been frequently seen at events with Reed during his time in office and right up until he left office.

In December, Reed sponsored his annual masked ball -- a major event in the social calendar for politically connected Atlantans.

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Even more exclusive was the after-party, and that’s where Gundy got involved.

Records obtained through the Open Records Act show the judge or her staff spent over $4,000 in court money for $870 worth of beverage napkins and nearly $2,600 in concert tickets and envelopes.

Total spending for the after party totaled $4,029 in public money.

“Absolutely shocking. I cannot imagine what the explanation is for this,” said William Perry of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs. “None of this is related to making government work right, and so it's an outrage. No matter what the amount is, this is an abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Gundy’s purchases also included three elaborate glass sculptures from the Hans Frabel Studio in Atlanta. Those totaled nearly $1,800 over three years.

They also included $695 spent late last year for a so-called flame of excellence.

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The invoice suggests that was intended for Reed.

Our investigation also found that the judge or her staff purchased more than $4,100 worth of luxuriously printed stationary, envelopes and business cards for the judge’s use.

Emails obtained by Channel 2 Action News show that Gundy and her staff aggressively pushed through the purchases.

“No one is checking on this, so people are abusing the system, even judges, which is the worst part about it because judges need to be held to a higher standard since they sit in judgment on others,” Perry said.

Gundy declined comment on this story. The agency which is investigating the judge, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, also declined comment.

Kasim Reed called this report a "hit piece on a dedicated public servant" and sent Channel 2 Action News the following statement:

"It is unfortunate that a "veteran journalist" has to be reminded that the Atlanta Municipal Court is a separate branch of government and is not run by the Office of The Mayor.  It is independently managed by the Chief Judge and Court Administrator who approves Court expenditures.

The Chief Judge presented Mayor Reed with the Flame of Excellence award at the end of his eight-year term for investing unprecedented resources into the Court and its reforms during his Administration.

With regards to the After Ball to the Mayor's Masked Ball, Mayor Reed hosted this event for the last eight years to benefit non-profit organizations. Last year's proceeds were in support of an organization that vigorously fights the war against breast cancer."