ATLANTA - You may remember our FOX 5 I-Team report about the high cost of Mayor Kasim Reed’s two executive protection cars. They cost some $93,000 each.
When we asked what the upgrades were, the city refused to show us, saying they were exempt from disclosure under the Georgia Open Records Act, due to security reasons.
Now, the FOX 5 I-Team has obtained the unredacted upgrades and found everything from the special paint job to a Blu-ray video player.
You may remember, we asked the city for the executive protection car invoices last year and it took them three months – with help from the State Attorney General's office - to give us the records. Open Records Act expects city documents to be turned over to requesting citizens or media in three days.
When we finally got the invoice, the city redacted the upgrades.
Mayor Reed's spokesperson Jenna Garland and then city attorney Jeremy Berry both told me the upgrades were redacted because they were security features, and exempt from disclosure by law.
We asked good government group, Common Cause director Sara Henderson what she thought of redacting the upgrades.
“It should be all open because every dime of that is taxpayer money, says Henderson.
Since then GBI agents have scoured the hallways of city hall picking up records, and talking to employees, as the GBI investigates whether Mayor Reed or his staff violated the Georgia Open Records Act.
The GBI investigation began after these texts were broadcast by another TV station
In them, then spokesperson, Jenna Garland told a fellow city communications director who was responding to an Open Records request - "to be as unhelpful as possible" and to "drag this out as long as possible."
So, with the GBI investigating open records violations, and Mayor Reed long gone, we filed another request with Atlanta Police for all the upgrades. This time we got an unredacted copy. So, we could now see all those so-called security features the city hide from us - and you.
The first thing we noticed. The city bought a brand new $73,341 Yukon Denali, but apparently, the Mayor didn't like the color so taxpayers paid $7,200 to paint the two brand new cars CUSTOM Dark Blue Paint Scheme.
Russell: Does that seem like an item that should be adapted for security reasons?
Henderson: No absolutely not. None of that information should be redacted, regardless of what it says. That's public information, that's taxpayer money.
Then, the city added custom 22-inch premium wheels, splash guards, premium floor mats, and chrome door handles.
”Definitely not a security issue, don't know why you would need chrome door handles,” said Henderson.
Then, there was this: the city installed a custom Rear Entertainment System with Blu-ray video. Those two systems cost an additional $3,200 for the taxpayers. Maybe Mayor Reed was watching security videos.
”A Blu-ray player? The fact that it was redacted when you first asked for the information goes to show, there was something to hide in those number. Taxpayers should be upset. they should be furious with that,” said Henderson.