ATLANTA - It was the federal grand jury subpoena Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration kept hidden from the public last year.
The subpoena, dated October 25, 2016, sought documents tied to key members of the Mayor’s cabinet, his top political supporters, and millions of dollars in city airport contracts.
In February of 2017, after news of a federal grand jury investigation at City Hall first broke, Mayor Kasim Reed made over a million pages of city documents available to the public. Mayor Reed claimed to have released all subpoenas issued to the city by that federal grand jury investigating corruption.
“We are providing every document that we have provided to the Justice Department in this matter,” said Mayor Reed at the time.
But, that wasn't true. The FOX 5 I-Team and other media outlets had asked for all federal grand jury subpoenas issued to the city. Buried in these boxes were all of them - except the October 25 subpoena.
The subpoena was recently released by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms following an Open Records request made by another news outlet.
“Well, one could say it was an oversight. A coincidence. But, I doubt that,” says former prosecutor Bob Barr.
Congressman Bob Barr was once the US Attorney in northern Georgia. He prosecuted airport corruption cases in Atlanta. He believes the city had to have a reason for not turning over the subpoena.
“There is a reason for that. They don't want people to know. Maybe there was a political reason at the time,” says Barr.
What did the grand jury want? The subpoena asked for specific employment and travel records for three top city officials: airport general manager Miguel Southwell and Watershed Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina, both of whom were fired by Reed.
It also asked for records for procurement director Adam Smith, who has since plead guilty to bribery conspiracy.
Former Mayor Kasim Reed issued a statement saying the subpoenas stemmed from a "set of personnel decisions made in 2016." They were "reviewed by the Department of Justice" and "this matter is over and concluded."
But, Bob Barr sees it differently. “It's definitely not just a fishing expedition. There is something very specific in there that they are looking for,” said Barr.
The subpoena also asks for specific records related to a contract involving the PRAD Group. The FOX 5 I-Team broke the story of FBI raid of Prad group offices late last year. No one from the Prad Group has been charged in the case.
Finally, the subpoena asked for records relating to a variety of airport food bids and contracts including some run by two firms with close ties to Reed. Hojeij Branded Foods and Jackmont Hospitality, which is run by Daniel Halpern, the co-chairman of Reed’s 2009 mayoral campaign.
“The concession and constructions at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport are so lucrative so rife with real or potential corruption, it shouldn't surprise anybody that is the focus of the investigation,” says Barr.
Both Mayor Reed (through a spokesperson) and his then city attorney Cathy Hampton say they decided to keep the subpoena secret after consulting with outside counsel. Neither would identify the lawyer they consulted with.
Ms. Hampton also texted me saying that she and the Mayor determined that the subpoena should not be made public until all the documents sought by the federal grand jury had been turned over.