Atlanta councilmembers, mayor’s staff to discuss ‘honest government’ legislation

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council intends to repair breaches in the city government’s protocols on transparency and honesty, and on Wednesday a council committee agreed to meet with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ staff to work out the details. A meeting date was not set.

Atlanta City Hall

Proposed legislation to promote ‘honest government’ is to be discussed in an upcoming work session involving the Atlanta City Council, mayor’s office and the independent Board of Ethics. Credit: flickr.com

Melissa Mullinax, a senior advisor to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, said the administration wants to convene the work session with the council to discuss two pending pieces of legislation.

Howard Shook, who chairs the council’s Finance/Executive Committee, was receptive to meeting with the administration.

Shook said he wants to ensure the outcome doesn’t duplicate the city’s existing methods to promote a transparent and honest government. Shook asked if funding for any new positions has been included in the budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which is to be approved before June 30. No one answered.

Shook also observed the council is committed to passing such legislation. He said every council member has signed the two pending proposals.

The city’s ethics officer, Jabu Sengova, said members of the city’s independent Board of Ethics have their opinions they want to voice at the work session.

Jabu Sengova

Jabu Sengova

“We’re not opposed to transparency or integrity, by no means,” Sengova said.

Mullinax said council President Felicia Moore may be working on her own legislative package. Common Cause of Georgia has expressed interest in participating in the discussion, she said.

“We want to make certain this is a tight package,” Mullinax said.

The council is considering two proposals – Ordinance 1266 and Ordinance 1267.

The first measure creates the position of transparency officer, who is charged with handling all requests submitted to the city under Georgia’s Open Records Law.

The provision targets purported efforts by former Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration to hinder responses to requests for public information filed under the state’s Open Records Law. One such response has gained widespread attention. Former mayoral spokesperson Jenna Garland sent a text concerning one such request:

  • “Be as unhelpful as possible … Drag this out as long as possible … And provide information in the most confusing format available.”

Such a response could lead to the respondent being fired, according to the pending legislation. It states:

Melissa Mullinax

Melissa Mullinax

  • “All employees shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, or termination of a contract, in conformance with the provisions of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta, Georgia for failure to comply with the requirements of this chapter. In addition, if applicable, violations of the requirements of this chapter by employees, vendors, or contractors may be referred to the appropriate authorities for criminal prosecution.”

The position is to appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council, and will report to both the mayor and council – as do other department heads including the city attorney and chief financial officer.

The second measure creates an Office of Integrity, to be placed in the mayor’s office. This position would have sweeping authority to investigate any and all financial transactions conducted by the city. The office is to:

  • “Review, monitor and, if appropriate, investigate the advertising, consideration, and award of any and all City contracts for services, supplies, equipment, and concessions to ensure that all such contracts are awarded in accordance with the law and conducted in an open, honest and transparent manner.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

2 replies
  1. Chris Johnston says:

    This is all eyewash and trying to cover their tails. They are decades late; this should have been done when Maynard Jackson was elected 45 years ago and the real wheeling and dealing began.Report

    Reply
  2. jenna blows says:

    Normally when you slight and abuse customers you usually DO get fired…..except Jenna Garland, who did just that landed a cushy job with MailChimp. If thats not enough reasons to drop MailChimp not sure what is…I use Get Response and it works better than Mailchimp. I dont reward any company who provides a cushy job to a former government employees who diss the people that pay their salaries.Report

    Reply

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