Atlanta Police Chief defends purchase and use of executive protection SUVs for Mayor

- A former Atlanta Police business manager says the city fired her after she blew the whistle on how the department bought and used Mayor Kasim Reed's executive protection SUV’s. Tracy Woodard, claims in her lawsuit, two luxury Yukon Denalis were used at times for personal errands by the Mayor and his family.

Tracy Woodard is a former Atlanta Police business manager. She claims she discovered funds "dedicated to purchasing patrol vehicles were used to purchase vehicles for personal use by Mayor Kasim Reed and his family."

“Officers don't even have decent vehicles to ride in,” says Woodard, “they can't even do their job. We got vehicles used for personal reasons. Excessive luxury. I just have a problem with that.”

Atlanta Police Chief, Erika Shields, in an exclusive interview with FOX 5, says Ms. Woodard can't be right because there is no separate police fund to buy just patrol cars.

“The city doesn't have a pool of money that is set aside for police vehicles,” says Chief Shields. “It is money to buy vehicles for the city. All 9,000 employees.”

Woodard's suit claims she also found "APD officers were driving and escorting Mayor Reed and his family on personal errands."

That doesn't surprise Chief Shields. She says, in fact, the standard operating procedure for executive protection is to take care of the Mayor and his immediate family. In this case, Chief Shields says that is the Mayor’s wife and daughter.

“They are never - not his family. He is never - not the mayor. So, it stands to reason at some point, yes, they will be in a grocery store together,” says chief Shields.

Tracy Woodard says she was fired last year, after she questioned the purchase of the two $84,146 vehicles, including upgrades.  Her lawsuit also claims the city misspent federal grant and drug forfeiture funds to pay holiday overtime to police officers. She says she reported this, as well, to the police chief.

“Not just under the bus, but they backed the bus over me,” says Woodard.

Chief Shields believes the lawsuit is without merit and the city will win. She says Tracy Woodard was fired, not for blowing a whistle, but for unsatisfactory job performance.

“I think it is unwarranted and we have a disgruntled employee and I'm sorry we are here having this interview,” says Chief Shields.

Tracy Woodard, born right here in Bowen Homes, and first in her family to graduate from college, is unhappy with the firing. But, is she sorry she asked questions about spending?

“Yes, because I lost my job. No, because that story need to be told.”

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