ATLANTA — An investigation by Channel 2 Action News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found that top city officials spent more than $12,000 on a lavish going-away dinner for former Mayor Kasim Reed.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher learned that records show two-thirds of that party for Reed's cabinet members, at $300 per person, was picked up by the taxpayers.
Belcher, along with the AJC, have documented hundreds of thousands of dollars in employee bonuses in the closing days of Reed's time in office, plus lavish spending by his security detail.
The dinner was at American Cut in Buckhead. It's the kind of restaurant where guests can enjoy chili lobster rolls, goat cheese crostini, Caesar salad, filet mignon and potato puree Robuchon.
Those are some of the items lifted straight from the menu of the Dec. 18 meal that the restaurant recorded as a holiday dinner for the mayor's cabinet.
Reed's chief financial officer, Jim Beard, who was one of the organizers, sent a statement through a spokesman that he "can't account for what American Cut wrote on a piece of paper, but insists it was a working meeting with an agenda and a presentation."
Critics aren't buying it.
“Very disappointing to see this on a city credit card,” said Sara Henderson, of watchdog group Common Cause.
Henderson said the menu tells her it was a really good shindig, but a bad way to spend $8,000 of taxpayer money.
“A definite climate with the previous administration at City Hall that it doesn't matter what we spend with taxpayer money, that it's all Kasim Reed's money,” Henderson said.
William Perry, of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, noted the $3,500 for wine, but a spokesman for Reed showed Belcher evidence that Beard paid for the wine personally.
That means taxpayers were stuck with $8,139 for the party -- or meeting.
Perry told Belcher that is still too much
“That is just shocking. I mean there is no excuse for it. Especially after having an executive party down at City Hall for everyone else. This is just absurd,” Perry said.
Former state Sen. Vincent Fort, who ran for mayor last fall, weighed in as well.
"Corruption and waste at City Hall takes from the citizens, particularly the citizens who need it the most.
How many young people could have received a summer job from that money?" Fort said.
Henderson said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms needs to send a signal.
“If she wants to be hard on ethics, now's the time to step up and speak out against this kind of behavior,” Henderson said.
A representative for Bottoms sent a statement saying, “Mayor Bottoms is not at liberty to speculate on the decisions made by the previous administration with regard to spending."
He added that Bottoms was not at the dinner.
That representative said the city is looking into whether any of the $8,100 spent on food was reimbursed.
Cox Media Group