ATLANTA — Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed's year-end bonuses and gifts cost taxpayers $811,000, or nearly $300,000 more than previously reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.
The additional spending falls into two general categories: additional employees who received bonuses or awards that were not on the original list provided by the city of Atlanta, and bonus awards that cost taxpayers more because additional city money was added so that public dollars covered taxes.
We previously reported that the bonus and some contest awards were "grossed up" to cover taxes.
But the AJC and Channel 2 Action News obtained a new spreadsheet from the city detailing the additional costs and bonuses through a Georgia Open Records Act request.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Atlanta City Hall investigation]
The additional staff compensation amounts to a 56 percent increase in the cost to taxpayers from what was previously known. Covering the taxes was a significant expense.
“That’s awful,” City of Atlanta employees’ union boss Gina Pagnotti-Murphy said. “In this magnitude of amount, it’s just startling. It’s very disheartening.”
For example, each of the five $15,000 bonuses paid to Reed’s highest-ranking cabinet members actually cost taxpayers $21,260.
The 26 $10,000 bonuses awarded by Reed cost the public $14,805 each when the tax burden was added.
“That’s a little shy of a million dollars. How much money, additional to that, we could have given raises to everybody, we could have bought resources, some equipment, some supplies that’s needed desperately for these employees,” Pagnotti-Murphy told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant.
The new higher figure also includes more than $87,000 in bonuses city council members awarded to staffers.
City Council President Felicia Moore also weighed in.
“The council member has the complete authority to give whatever bonuses they may want,” Moore told Diamant.
Moore said unlike cabinet members and other city workers, the city council members set staff salaries.
“If people are giving things that are excessive, perhaps the council may want to come up with some rules to, sort of, reign that in,” Moore said.
The Atlanta City Council released a statement late Thursday afternoon, saying:
“The issue related to bonuses given to selected high-ranking administration employees by former Mayor Kasim Reed in the amount of $811,000 is separate and apart from those given by some city council members to their aides. Bonuses given by council members to council aides are not prohibited in the city code, as long as the funding is in the council member’s budget.
“Council aides do not accrue sick time, vacation time, citywide bonuses or pay increases, unless given to them by their council member.”
Dan Klepal with the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.
Cox Media Group