ATLANTA - The mayor's office announced they suspended a top Atlanta city official without pay before releasing hundreds of emails, notes and documents related to the Atlanta Braves negotiations to Channel 2 Action News.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant scanned through pages of documents Wednesday and uncovered emails in which Braves team officials and city leaders expressed frustration in the negotations.
An hour after partial emails were posted on WSBTV.com and aired on Channel 2 Action News at 4, city officials told Diamant that deputy chief operating officer Hans Utz had been suspended three days without pay earlier in the week.
The emails give insight into how long the city and the team were in discussions about the end of the team's Turner Field lease and the tension involved. They also reveal that Mayor Kasim Reed was not aware of the finalized relocation deal until after his election.
Other letters, obtained through an open records request, include colorful language from Utz, who was the city’s top negotiator, as he described the baseball team the day they announced their move.
"They are still the Atlanta Braves. They are not going to call themselves the Cobb Crackers, or the Smyrna S---holes. They will still be the Atlanta Braves, and that is an indication of the value of the city," the deputy COO wrote in an email.
Utz rails on the Braves again in another email.
"Are you saying they will not allow me to say "Smyrna S---holes on national TV? Cause I am geared up for it. I might actually compose a poem or some form of haiku to express my thoughts," Utz wrote.
Utz sent Diamant an email on Thursday afternoon that said his remarks "reflect a lapse in judgement on my part for which I sincerely apologize and truly regret. They were not meant to disparage our suburban neighbors."
A March 2013 letter from Braves Executive Vice President of Business Operations Mike Plant shows frustration over the Atlanta Falcons deal and the lack of movement in any negotiations with the baseball team.
"Hans, just got the call from Brianna that the mtg has been cancelled. Again. have to be honest with you Hans, that sends a very bad message that I now have to pass on to our chairman," the email said. "We met with the mayor and peter in October of 2011. 18 months later we are no further along in resolving any of the 3 major components of our discussion."
"We have watched the state pass a major funding initiative for a new falcons stadium and that has now gone thru all the proper channels including approval by the city council in 7 short weeks," Plant's email continued.
"Just being honest with you and I know I am going to have a real hard time convincing Terry that the city still sees value in our team just like they did the Falcons who economic impact can’t hold a candle to ours," Plant wrote.