Atlanta defends second-chance program in hiring of RICO felon

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s communications office sent out a press release Monday defending its second-chance hiring program after a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution questioned the city’s hiring of a felon now linked to the City Hall bribery investigation.

The press release refers to the AJC’s story about Shandarrick Barnes, who was a city employee at the time that he allegedly admitted to throwing a brick through the window of a key witness in the bribery case, and planting dead rats on his property.

The brick thrown through a window at the home of Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell, a contractor who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and has agreed to cooperate with the on-going investigation.

The AJC reported that the city hired Barnes in early 2014 — just months after he was released from state prison because of a racketeering conviction, which included charges of bribery, forgery and stealing more than $300,000 from DeKalb County and an additional $60,000 from Cobb County.

The AJC story reported that Barnes had two politically influential references on his application: Andrea Boone, Reed’s director of constituent services who was formerly a chief aide to Councilman C.T. Martin; and Mitzi Bickers, whose political consulting company helped Reed win his 2009 mayoral campaign, and who was subsequently hired as the mayor’s director of human services.

The story also reported that Barnes was hired before the city adopted a policy to prohibit questions about prospective employees’ criminal history during initial interviews.

The eight-paragraph press release implied that the city had no choice but to hire Barnes.

“When an employer adopts a second-chance hiring policy, it does not get to pick and choose which crimes make someone ineligible for employment; rather, per 2012 EEOC guidelines, the employer must evaluate the candidate based on the position they applied for, and this is precisely what the City of Atlanta does when evaluating all applicants.”

The press release doesn’t address another issue raised by the story: that Barnes apparently lied on his resume by claiming he was employed during the four years he spent incarcerated.