Former high-ranking city official 'takes full responsibility' for taking bribes, attorney says

ATLANTA — A former high-ranking official in Atlanta's city government has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in a federal bribery case.

Longtime procurement director Adam Smith admitted guilt Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors said Smith accepted more than $30,000 in payoffs from an unnamed company that did business with the city.

Channel 2's Mark Winne broke the story Monday night on the Channel 2 Action News Nightbeat at 11.


Smith served as the city’s top purchasing agent for 14 years until Mayor Kasim Reed fired him Feb. 21. On that same day, the FBI showed up at City Hall with a sweeping subpoena for Smith’s records and seized his city-owned computer and phone. During his time in that position, Smith oversaw billions of dollars in city contracts.

Months earlier, two city contractors, E.R. Mitchell and Charles P. Richards Jr., pleaded guilty to conspiring to pay more than a million dollars in bribes to an unnamed city official believing they would lead to high-dollar contracts.

Smith’s charging document does not say if Mitchell and Richards Jr.’s bribes went to him.

It does say:

The vendor is an executive with a construction firm in Atlanta, Georgia. During Smith's tenure as Chief Procurement Officer, Atlanta awarded contracts worth millions of dollars to vendor's firm and joint venture projects of which vendor was a partner.

Prosecutors say Smith met privately with that vendor several times at local restaurants, after which the vendor paid him $1,000 in cash.

"His duties and obligations were sold for thousand-dollar payments in restaurant bathrooms," said U.S. attorney John Horn. "The City of Atlanta's Procurement Office holds the power and the authority to oversee and award billions of dollars in taxpayer funds for the purchasing and contracting activities of the city. But it does so with the obligation of the public trust. To do so lawfully and fairly. Smith's failure to do so here represents a fundamental breakdown of this process."

Smith's attorney, Brian Steel, spoke to Channel 2's Aaron Diamant after the hearing. He said Smith takes full responsibility for his actions.

“This is a horrible day and a horrible time in Mr. Smith’s life. However, this misconduct is a total aberration. I firmly believe Mr. Smith will continue to do great things in his life. This criminal conduct will not define him," he said.

Diamant spoke with Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore after showing her the court document charging Smith.

"Well, I think it's shameful," she said. "This next administration is going to have a task on their hands making sure that they can restore the public trust."

A bond hearing is expected to happen sometime in the next 48 hours.

Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 16.