ATLANTA -- Officials are moving to make changes in the city’s procurement process after discoveries made in the 1.4 million pages of documents released by the mayor’s office related to a bribery investigation.
City of Atlanta contracts are normally awarded after competitive bidding, but in an emergency, department heads can bypass that process.
That was the case in 2012 when then-Procurement Director Adam Smith approved more than $48,000 in sidewalk repairs and hired C.P. Richards to do the work. Richards has pleaded guilty to bribing city officials from 2010 to 2015. Smith was fired last week as the FBI raided his office.
According to City Hall documents, the cracked sidewalk outside Atlanta Municipal Court posed a "huge life safety issue" because water was leaking into the building and could potentially lead to the growth of mold.
Was that a dire emergency? It’s hard to tell, and that's why Councilman Howard Shook said he'd like to see more documentation on all emergency contracts.
“A look at our procurement code, and it's pretty clear we need to tighten up in the reporting side,” Shook said.
Shook has proposed new rules that would require a lot more documentation after an emergency contract is issued.
“The scope of the work, what you paid for what, the extent to which you tried to find the best commodities at the best price,” Shook said.
He points to the 2011 and 2014 snow and ice emergencies, when E.R. Mitchell got more than $7 million in emergency contract money for high-priced cleanup work.
Emergency contracts were also issued during massive flooding in 2009 and in 2011 for repairs to the MLK Jr. Bridge to Mitchell and Richards, who have both admitted to bribery charges.
The scandal has renewed calls for transparency at City Hall, something council member Mary Norwood has been pushing for two years.
“I have, along with Councilmember Felecia Moore, introduced an ordinance back in 2015 to put all the cities expenses online including the checks, I think it's critically important that we re-establish the trust of the citizens with city government,” Norwood said.
That ordinance has been stalled in committee. If it passes, anyone would be able to go online and see where their tax dollars are being spent.
Meanwhile, Shook's new guidelines on emergency contracts passed the finance committee so will move on to the full city council.