ATLANTA - Our FOX 5 I-Team asked the city of Atlanta more than three months ago for records involving the purchase of Mayor Kasim Reed's executive protection cars after a former city employee claimed they were bought improperly.
The city denied the employee's claim, but took more than three months to produce a three-page document to our I-Team. Once we got them, we saw each one of the Mayor’s Yukon Denali XL’s cost $94,612 including upgrades.
Questions about the cars and the upgrades were first raised by a former city employee who filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the city bought the two cars improperly.
Tracy Woodard is a former Atlanta Police finance manager. She filed the law suit. It claims she discovered funds "dedicated to purchasing patrol vehicles were used to purchase vehicles for personal use by Mayor Kasim Reed and his family."
Woodard told us those cars had expensive upgrades. “The tricked out items the Mayor wanted, in his, I guess the latest and greatest of policing toys,” she called them.
The city answered the lawsuit saying Ms. Woodard’s claims were false, the cars were properly financed, Ms. Woodward was fired for poor performance and was never a whistleblower.
Back in April, we asked under the Georgia Open Records Act, to review all documents relating to the purchase of the SUV’s. After more than a month with no documents, we asked the Georgia Attorney General to help us get the records. The Attorney General mediates Open Records disputes.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo wrote city attorney Jeremy Berry, and told him: “The City has failed to comply with either the spirit or letter of the Open Records Act” for this and other requests.
Jeremy Berry agreed to turn over the records and finally produced them last week. It had been more than three months since our first request.
By comparison, we asked the Georgia State Patrol for the records pertaining to the Governor's executive protection car and all the upgrades on it. The State Patrol provided the records one day later.
The city gave us a 3-page purchase order that was printed out the day after our April 18th request. The two 2015 4 Wheel Drive Denali XL were bought at Wamar Technologies in Atlanta. The cars were more expensive than earlier records indicated: $94,612 per vehicle. That price includes more than $20,000 in upgrades.
Governor Nathan Deal’s 2015 Yukon Denali cost nearly $30,000 less at $64,995, plus the cost of lights, siren, and radio put on in the state patrol garage.
We still don't know what the Mayor’s upgrades are because the city redacted them sighting security reasons. Security exemptions are allowed under the Georgia Open Records Act. The State Patrol also redacted upgrades on its bill, but later provided us with basic information regarding lights, sirens, and radios.
An Atlanta police spokesperson issued a statement saying the city is confident the lawsuit will be resolved in its favor. And, that any suggestion that the Mayor doesn't deserve protection is "ludicrous."
Of course, no one in our report ever said that the Mayor doesn't deserve protection. We just asked what did the taxpayers get with this purchase and how much did it cost them?
Atlanta Police Spokesman Carlos Campos full statement:
"The City provided Fox 5 with its answer to allegations in a lawsuit made by a disgruntled former employee; this detailed document laid out evidence disproving each of the former employee’s claims. The City is confident that the lawsuit will be resolved in our favor.
"In spite of the clear and decisive evidence showing that the former employee’s claims have no merit, Fox 5’s Dale Russell has chosen to pursue this story and make similarly baseless claims about two APD vehicles purchased for the Department’s Executive Protection unit.
"These vehicles were purchased to replace two others which had been driven nearly to the point of breaking down. APD required certain specifications for the vehicles, which obligated the Department to purchase packages which met those specifications.
"The Atlanta Police Department is charged with ensuring the safety and security of the Mayor of Atlanta and his or her family at all times. The brave and dedicated officers on the Executive Protection Unit treat this responsibility seriously, with the gravity and professionalism it demands. Any suggestion that the Mayor of one of the most important cities in the country does not deserve protection is simply ludicrous, and should be treated as such."