This story has been updated.
The sunlight shined through the windows of the old council chambers at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 9, brightening a room filled numerous white boxes.
Each box contained thousands of pages of records. The boxes contained little information about their contents, but presumably they are all documents responsive to numerous records requests regarding a federal corruption probe into bribery at City Hall.
Members of the press looked overwhelmed as they tried to sift through the information, 1.4 million pages of records in total. Some reporters left before attempting to search through the records, including Atlanta Loop due to time constraints. We will attempt to view the records at a later date and obtain an electronic copy of the records – which may be easier to search – when a copy becomes available.
Mayor Kasim Reed said that electronic copies of the records would be made available eventually. He said the contents of the boxes at City Hall include every record provided to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“It is the opinion of our law department these records can now be released without compromising the integrity of the ongoing federal investigation,” Reed said. “I want to emphasize, this investigation is not closed … the city of Atlanta continues to cooperate fully.”
Atlanta Loop requested the contracts awarded to Elvin R. Mitchell Jr., who pleaded guilty to paying $1 million in bribes to unnamed city of Atlanta officials. Since that records request, another contractor, Charles P. Richards Jr., has been arraigned on conspiratorial bribery charges and is expected to plead guilty to paying more than $185,000 to receive government contracts.
Reed indicated he is not a target of the investigation and declined to answer several questions pertaining to who might be charged in the bribery scheme.
Some of the records provided were difficult to read, prompting the city to send the following statement from City Attorney Cathy Hampton on Thursday afternoon:
“The City of Atlanta released more than 1.4 million pages of documents to the press and public today in the interest of transparency. City staff did not review the documents prior to delivering them to the press, and therefore were unaware that certain printed documents were difficult to read. We are working with our third-party vendor to provide an immediate solution, and will share legible, clear documents as soon as possible.”
The Atlanta Journal Constitution posted several updates about what reporters were finding as they were going through the records. To read those updates, click here.