Kasim Reed's former deputy chief of staff pleads guilty to federal charges

The woman who served as Mayor Kasim Reed’s Deputy Chief of Staff pled guilty Wednesday to federal charges of bribery conspiracy.

Katrina Taylor-Parks entered the guilty plea at a hearing late Wednesday morning at the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in downtown Atlanta.

Federal prosecutors said Park has agreed to cooperate in the ongoing federal investigation of alleged City Hall corruption.

The criminal charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office last week accused Taylor-Parks of writing thousands of dollars in checks to a business controlled by her husband and a $2,000 check to her own business, TKP Solutions L.L.C.

“Parks was trusted to serve the citizens of Atlanta, but opted instead to betray that confidence when she accepted bribes from a vendor,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak. “Unfortunately, she is not alone.  Parks represents the fifth defendant to enter a guilty plea in this investigation. We remain resolute in our commitment to root out those who seek to profit personally at the expense of the public’s trust.”

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The charge against Taylor-Parks who served as Deputy Chief of Staff for around 8 years is the latest charge or indictment in the ongoing federal investigation into allegations of corruption at Atlanta City Hall.

“Park’s plea should strike fear in any public official who chooses to cash in on the trust of the people they are sworn to serve,” said J. C. Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Though a bribe to make easy money may be tempting, know this: Public corruption investigations are a top priority for the FBI and we are committed to holding accountable anyone who chooses to disregard the public’s trust.”

“Parks must be held accountable for her crimes in order to restore public trust in city governance,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation. “IRS-CI will continue to leverage its skilled workforce in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to eradicate public corruption by recommending prosecution on any elected official or employee involved in criminal activity under the guise of serving the public.”

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According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: From approximately January 2010 to May 2018, Parks served as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Mayor of the City of Atlanta, Georgia. As the Deputy Chief of Staff, Parks had various responsibilities, including managing core City of Atlanta operations, coordinating with the Mayor and the executive staff to execute the administration’s policies, and facilitating the procurement process.

In her position, Parks signed an annual Financial Disclosure Statement attesting that she was not self-employed or employed by any business or entity other than the City of Atlanta, and that she had not received more than $5,000 in annual income from any source other than the City of Atlanta. Parks executed the Financial Disclosure Statements, under penalty of perjury, in 2011, 2012, and 2013, stating she was not employed outside the City of Atlanta. 

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A vendor, who was an executive with a firm in Atlanta during Parks’ tenure as the Deputy Chief of Staff, sought work through his businesses with the City of Atlanta, and the City of Atlanta awarded one project to the vendor’s firm worth $99,999. 

From late-2011 to mid-2013, Parks met privately with the vendor on multiple occasions. During these meetings, Parks and the vendor discussed various topics, including the vendor’s desire to obtain work with the City of Atlanta, the idea of sole-source contracting, and the process by which the vendor could obtain a sole-source contract with the City of Atlanta. At the time of these meetings, the vendor was actively seeking projects and work with Atlanta, and at times was performing work for the City of Atlanta. 

The vendor paid Parks thousands of dollars and paid for various services on Parks’ behalf, while seeking work with the City of Atlanta. In return for these bribe payments, Parks knew that the vendor wanted her to use her position and power as the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff to assist the vendor with the City of Atlanta’s contracting and procurement process, and to assist the vendor in the future when needed.

On November 16, 2017 and on February 15, 2018, Parks was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During those interviews, Parks falsely stated that she had never taken money from the vendor.

Another key figure in the investigation also went to court Wednesday.

Mitzi Bickers, who helped Mayor Reed get elected, appeared before a federal judge earlier Wednesday for a status hearing in her bribery conspiracy case.

RELATED: New indictment in City of Atlanta bribery case

At Wednesday’s hearing, the judge granted a defense request that they have until November to review more than a million documents in the case.

A federal grand jury returned an 11-count indictment in April against Bickers who is a former Atlanta city employee and former Atlanta School Board member.
The 11-count indictment charges Bickers with conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and witness tampering.

The indictment alleges contractors paid Bickers paid bribes totaling more than $2,000,000 to city contractors. Bickers' attorney says she is innocent and plans to fight the indictment.

Bickers is a local pastor and political operative who once did campaign work for Mayor Reed and worked with him at Atlanta City Hall. The move comes after Bickers' business partner pled guilty last year to his own federal charges.

In October 2017, contractor E.R. Mitchell admitted in federal court he paid more than 1 million dollars over 5 years to an unidentified person who was to spread the money around in exchange for City of Atlanta construction contracts.