UPDATE: Bickers subpoena among bribery probe documents

5:00 p.m.

Work continues as reporters go through boxes of documents at City Hall. News crews are setting up to get in their live shots before city officials will shoo journalists out for the day.

The search through more than 400 boxes of documents has already produced some interesting news, including an Aug. 19, 2016, subpoena of Mitzi Bickers, a political operative in Mayor Kasim Reed’s 2009 campaign who served as Reed’s director of human relations from 2010-13.

From AJC investigative reporter Dan Klepal’s deadline story on the document:

The six-page subpoena was among 1.4 million pages of documents that the Reed administration released Thursday and that the city had previously turned over to federal investigators. There were at least 310 filing boxes stuffed full of information about Bickers, her companies, and companies for which she consulted.

The timing of the subpoena suggests that investigators were interested in Bickers before they began looking at the two Atlanta contractors who have already been named in the investigation.

Three months after the subpoena asking for Bickers’ information, federal investigators served the city with another subpoena asking for information about contractors Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. and Charles P. Richards.

Read Klepal’s full story here.

1:00 p.m. The post has been updated to include City Hall’s explanation of the blank records.

As reporters plow through more than 400 boxes of documents released today at Atlanta City Hall, they are discovering many of them contain nothing more than blank pages or illegible spreadsheets.image-uploaded-from-ios

In his press conference, Mayor Kasim Reed said as many as 1.5 million pages of documents had been produced in paper form because that was the quickest, most transparent method possible. But many of those pages are blank or printed in a font so small that they are illegible.

A paralegal provided by the city explained that a number of boxes filled with blank paper represent printouts of blank cells from spreadsheets. The paralegal said she printed out the blank cells because they were part of the document. Those pages are part of the city’s overall tally of pages released.

There was no such explanation for illegible spreadsheets. A representative of the city’s Law Department said reporters could re-request that they be produced in a readable font. Reporters from the AJC requested they be produced in their original, electronic format. In his remarks, Mayor Kasim Reed said the city is working on an electronic version of the document release.

12:10 p.m.

Reed’s press conference lasted about 30 minutes, with the mayor repeatedly refusing to get into specifics about which City Hall employees are targets of the federal bribery probe.

Reporters begin the process of reviewing more than 1 million documents produced at Atlanta City Hall Thursday related to a federal bribery probe. CHRIS JOYNER / CJOYNER@AJC.COM

Reporters begin the process of reviewing more than 1 million documents produced at Atlanta City Hall Thursday related to a federal bribery probe. CHRIS JOYNER / CJOYNER@AJC.COM

“I’m not going to talk about what the federal government asked for,” he said. “I’m not going to comment or give my opinion.”

He did say that he has not hired a defense attorney. He also said that his brother, who worked for the city until 2011, had not been interviewed by investigators.

Reed seemed most interested in stressing his commitment to government transparency with the release of a multitude of paper records, estimates of which ranged from 1.3-1.5 million pages. Reed defended the release as the fastest way to get the records out and said they will eventually be released electronically to the press and the public.

He did not say when that would happen.

“I’m not giving deadlines I cannot meet,” he said.

The fact that federal investigators have requested so many documents related to Mitzi Bickers is a revelation of sorts. Reed said the same documents were requested by the U.S. Attorney’s office but he dodged questions about Bicker’s role in the investigation.

When asked why so many documents related to Bickers, Reed said, “I don’t know.”

Further updates below.

11:45 a.m.

In a press conference, Mayor Kasim Reed said 1.4 million pages of paper records released this morning to the press is a demonstration of his administration’s commitment to transparency.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke to the media Thursday regarding the release of the bribery probe records. CHRIS JOYNER / CJOYNER@AJC.COM

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spoke to the media Thursday regarding the release of the bribery probe records. CHRIS JOYNER / CJOYNER@AJC.COM

Reed said the unprecedented release of records mirrors the documents produced to federal investigators as part of an ongoing bribery probe into city contracting. He said investigators got the records in electronic form, but he said the city provided them in hundreds of boxes of paper records because that was the quickest way to redact personal information and get them to the press.

Reed said a paralegal would be provided to the press to help reporters sift through the records.

Reed, who often has sparred with the press, emphasized the release was in a spirit of cooperating with the media.

“What I wasn’t going to allow to happen was for y’all to question my commitment to sunshine,” he said.

11:15 a.m.

Media arriving at City Hall for Reed’s press conference found hundreds of file boxes in the old City Council chamber presumably filled with the 1.3 million pages of documents being released today.

Hundreds of boxes filling with documents related to a City of Atlanta bribery probe fill the old City Council chamber. CHRIS JOYNER / CJOYNER@AJC.COM

Hundreds of boxes filling with documents related to a City of Atlanta bribery probe fill the old City Council chamber. CHRIS JOYNER / CJOYNER@AJC.COM

One reporter counted 65 boxes labeled “Bickers related documents.” Mitzi Bickers worked as the city’s director of human relations from 2010-13 and consulted for Reed’s mayoral campaign. She also hired the man arrested for throwing a brick through a window of contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell and placing dead rats around his home.

The release of such a large number of documents in paper form as a response to a public records request is unusual.

Original post below

The City of Atlanta is expected this morning to release 1.3 million pages of public records to the media following a statement from Mayor Kasim Reed.

The records relate to the ongoing federal probe into payoffs for city contracts. The AJC and Channel 2, among other news organizations, requested the city release emails, contracts and payments made to contractor Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell, and people who may be related to the investigation.

Reed’s office initially refused to produce the documents, but it now appears the city will release them, but in paper form rather than as electronic records. Reed is scheduled to give a statement at 11:30 a.m.

Check here throughout the day for the latest on the document release and how our reporters are approaching the task.

Reader Comments 1

1 comments
independentiii
independentiii

Spreadsheets are by  their nature electronic.  So why couldn't these be released electronically?  Would be quicker and more transparent.

But no, it wouldn't give Reed time to "redact personal information"

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