Wife says CEO who paid bribes won Atlanta contracts by fraud

ATLANTA — The wife of a man convicted of paying bribes in exchange for city of Atlanta construction contracts now says he fraudulently used her name to win them.

Records obtained by Channel 2 Action News show E. R. Mitchell used his wife Marjorie's name on at least two of his companies. One of those, Cascade Building Systems, was part of several contracts during the years bribes were paid. It's one of four Mitchell companies named in the federal case.

Through her divorce attorney, Marjorie Mitchell told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer she's uncovered records showing her husband misrepresented his wife's role in his companies and her experience in the construction industry on documents he filed with the city.

"Any construction done in her name was not done with her consent," said Esther Panitch, Marjorie Mitchell's attorney.


Panitch says Marjorie had no idea her husband used her name to win contracts or to get certified as a female minority business owner for bonus points in the bidding process with multiple governments, including Fulton County and Jackson, Mississippi.

"Imagine you go home and find out your husband has now been charged with bribery, and everything you believed about what he was and what he did has been a lie," said Panitch. "She was surprised and is still being surprised every day. He has yet to come clean to her about the scope of his fraud."

In fact, when someone planted dead rats in their yard and threw a brick through their living room window in September 2015, Marjorie says her husband still didn't tell her he was under federal investigation.

Last week, he admitted paying someone $1 million in bribes between 2010 and 2015, which he believed would be shared among Atlanta officials with the power to steer construction contracts.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation.

Federal prosecutors accused E.R. Mitchell of spending $1 million to bribe city officials in order to secure construction contracts.

A federal subpoena, obtained by Channel 2 Action News through an open records request, shows agents are also investigating C.P. Richards Construction.

Records show that company partnered with Mitchell's company Cascade Building Systems on several projects.

Marjorie Mitchell confirms Charles P. Richards and her husband are close friends.

City of Atlanta records obtained by our news partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show Richards won nearly $10 million in contracts between 2009 and 2014.

Mitchell was often Richards' subcontractor, earning extra points on bids by using his wife Marjorie's name on his company.

"The city apparently had her name as the contact person but had her husband's email and phone numbers, so it was easy for her not to know anything that he was doing in her name," said Panitch.

Marjorie even uncovered a fake resume, presumably submitted to the city by her husband.

"It is fraudulent for the person who actually submitted the application," said Panitch.

Panitch says Marjorie Mitchell is anxiously awaiting the city's promised release of 1.3 million pages of records next week, in response to several open records requests filed by WSB-TV and the AJC.

The city initially denied all of the requests, citing the ongoing federal investigation. But has since decided to instead release records, mixed together with hundreds of thousands of additional pages of records, which will likely make it more difficult to uncover who at City Hall was connected to those contracts.