ATLANTA - The FOX 5 I-Team has learned a top airport official claims he had to attend a job interview with Mayor Kasim Reed's brother and a top airport vendor before he was hired as assistant general manager at the airport.
The mayor's brother, Tracy Reed, did not work for the city at the time. The airport vendor, Wassim Hojeij, said the story is simply not true.
Sara Henderson, director of good government group, Common Cause, was stunned to hear about the claim. She told us it wasn’t proper for the mayor’s brother, who resigned under fire from the city in 2012, to be involved in airport hiring.
“I think this looks like Kasim Reed is playing puppet master,” she said.
The applicant was Cortez Carter. Last week the city Ethics officer found evidence Carter failed to disclose his personal and financial interest in a company owned by his wife, Charisse Carter.
The city ethics office investigated after the FOX 5 I-Team uncovered that Cortez Carter's wife, Charisse Carter was a minority partner with Hojeij Branded Foods at Regan National Airport in Washington DC September of 2017.
Hojiej Branded Foods is one of the largest airport vendors in Atlanta and big political supporters of Mayors Reed and Keisha Lance Bottoms.
After the ethics board found evidence that Carter had a conflict of interest, they closed the case because Carter no longer worked for the city. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms fired him earlier this year.
Following the vote to close the case, we examined the Ethics investigative report and found stunning news. Cortez Carter told ethics investigators that when he applied for the assistant general manager job, he had four interviews including one with "Tracy Reed, brother of former Mayor Kasim Reed"
Carter told investigators Reed was not only present in his interview, but that "Tracy Reed had a key role in the vetting (hiring) process"
(Is it plausible in your mind, that Tracy Reed could enter in this interview with without Mayor Reed knowing it?)
“No, absolutely not. Absolutely not,” said Henderson.
According to the ethics report, Carter also said two airport vendors joined Tracy Reed in the interview. "Wassim and Carol Hojeij, the owners of Hojeij Branded Foods."
Sara Henderson believes having an airport vendor involved in an interview of a man who would ultimately be over airport food contracts was a message from Mayor Kasim Reed.
“He is sending a very clear message to a potential employee that says: You take care of this vendor and you can have this job and don't worry we're going to be watching you through Tracy Reed,” said Henderson.
Wassim Hojeij's spokesperson told us Mr. Carter's story is “not true.” Hojeij said he knew Cortez Carter from Chicago but had “no formal interview” only “social contact” after Carter was hired.
Hojiej was a big winner in the 2017 airport food bids, picking up 10 locations, worth, according to an airport source as much as 400 million over the length of the 10-year contract.
“Four hundred million dollars. I mean that that's just absolutely shocking there were already in my mind too few vendors at the airport as it is,” said Henderson.
We reached out to the city and got this response: Hiring is done by Human Resources and “they are unaware of any external meetings in which Cortez Carter claims to have participated in.”
We asked a friend of Mayor Reed and his brother Tracy if we could get a comment, and haven't heard back yet.