ATLANTA — Atlanta's mayor fired back Thursday over bombshell allegations fired Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport general manager, Miguel Southwell, made against several senior city officials.
Mayor Kasim Reed abruptly fired Southwell last month for reasons the mayor still won't spell out specifically, despite a lot of talk in a May news conference about security wait times, customer service and cleanliness.
Last week, Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant broke the news Southwell plans to sue. %
Diamant was first to see the accusation-filled letter from Southwell's attorney to the mayor after filing an open records request.
The most striking claims say that Reed, and others working at his direction, tried to manipulate who got highly lucrative airport contracts.
When Diamant asked the mayor about that, he lobbed a bombshell of his own.
“I want you to be real clear, Aaron, if he continues this path I’m going to make public why he was fired. And he knows, that not only could I have fired him, I could have pressed charges against him if had chosen to do so. You understand me?" Reed said to Diamant.
Reed didn’t pull any punches during a one-on-one interview with Diamant Thursday.
"The fact of the matter is this. Miguel Southwell is fortunate that I don't destroy his career,” Reed said. “What I’ve been trying to do was to allow him to leave with dignity.” %
Reed wouldn't give up any goods, but proclaimed Southwell would lose any lawsuit.
“Why are all of these claims being made now that he’s unemployed? If he was a person who was honorable and had the level of dignity that a leader in my department has, if he felt these things, he should have resigned or said something about it,” Reed said.
He then accused Southwell of now trying to extort the city.
“A whistleblower actually says something while they’re an employee. That’s what whistleblowers do. A person who’s trying to extort an organization tries to make these claims because they know you’ll cover it well,” Reed told Diamant. “Miguel, an unemployed man, who just built a massive house in the city of Atlanta, has to figure out how he's going to pick his career up from rubble,”
Southwell’s lawyers responded to Reed saying, “Mr. Southwell's dignity is intact, and he has no concerns about any trumped up 'charges' the Mayor may manufacture and throw at him now. The truth is that Mayor Reed fired Mr. Southwell because he was unwilling to bend the knee to the Mayor's 'Friends and Family' contracting program.”