Audit finds "wild west" spending culture under former Mayor Kasim Reed

A forensic audit of spending by a top city official under then Mayor Kasim Reed found Atlanta's spending culture akin to the "wild west" with little or no oversight.

Auditors found former chief financial officer Jim Beard could easily side-step the rules when using his city credit card to purchase guns and expensive travel.

"I would say I was angry about the results but not surprised," says Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore.

 Moore, who is running for Mayor,  is upset about a city audit that found out of control spending by former Atlanta Chief Financial Officer, Jim Beard. Auditors blamed lavish spending by Beard on a "wild west" culture with top city officials in then Mayor Kasim Reed's administration.

"The worst part of the audit was the finding that it was the tone from the top," said Moore.

For years the FOX 5 I-Team reported on FBI and IRS raids, agents hauling potential evidence out of city hall, threats made to a potential witnesses, and a jaw dropping number of top city officials and city contractors who plead guilty to a variety of federal crimes.   Three more former city officials are awaiting trial.  All worked for former Mayor Kasim Reed.

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The FOX 5 I-Team also examined Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard's spending. We found he paid for first class style plane tickets like a $9519 flight to Beijing, and $14,732 business Class flight and hotel to Amsterdam for two city employees.  We also found lavish hotel expenses, like $10,277 for the Shangri La, seen here on this web page, in Paris.

Following our reporting, the city Ethics Board found questionable expenses totaling $98,632 by Beard. 
Beard repaid taxpayers for the Paris hotel after local news organizations requested the records through the Open records act.

In June of 2019, The I-Team also reported about police records relating to a Glock 19 "assigned to Beard" as well as a Glock 43, AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, and a "Micro T-2 Sight" Atlanta Police spokesperson said police never assigned a gun to Beard.

"I  have no earthly idea why those weapons were purchased," said Councilman Howard Shook at the time. 

Now, an outside audit, requested by Council chairwoman Felicia Moore, has found Atlanta had insufficient policies to control spending and that Beard easily side stepped those policies because of a "wild west" culture among managers in Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration.

Auditors wrote: "Employees perceived that executives were not required to comply with rules and procedures imposed upon lower-level employees, especially regarding travel expenses and reimbursements."

"That is the problem, when you have the CFO of the city, the chief executive officer, being the Mayor of the city, setting a tone, that allows the citizen's money and the citizen's trust to be violated. That was the most troubling part of this to me," said Council President Moore.

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Following our reporting, a federal grand jury indicted Beard on multiple counts of fraud. The indictment alleges Jim Beard illegally bought machine guns at taxpayer expense and used a city credit card for personal travel.

Jim Beard’s attorney Scott Grubman wrote to say Mr. Beard plead not guilty and is confident "justice will prevail" at his trial. Grubman questions the accuracy and completeness of the audit, since Beard’s the city admitted it destroyed his hard drive during a criminal investigation.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms texted that it all starts at the top. She pointed out that her administration implemented ethics and transparency policies. She seemed to take a shot at former Mayor Kasim Reed when she wrote past behavior is the best predictor for future behavior.

We passed our contact information on to former Mayor Kasim Reed, who is running for Mayor again. We did not hear back from him. 

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