James.qxp Sept Oct 2018 web (2) - Page 26

millions of federal dollars— into a feast for his cronies.
Overseeing that gluttony, with public treasure as the
only menu item, would be Reed’s croniest of cronies,
Dan Halpern, the Rasputin to Tsar Kasim whose power
emanated from voracious fundraising for the
Democratic Party and the lucrative favors that rebound
from such work.
Halpern had conned many black Atlantans into
believing he was African-American and, thus, eligible
for the city’s “disadvantaged business enterprise” program. After Halpern’s scam was disclosed, he maladroitly asserted his ethnicity was Native American, which
was equally ersatz. Reed would nonetheless name the
ersatz “disadvantaged” Halpern to the chairmanship of
AHA, where he schemed to oust the fastidiously ethical
Glover. Reed named other board members who achieved
notice by being investigated for misogynistic remarks,
racial slurs and threatening to pistol whip an AHA executive. With that caliber of board members, Reed was
nally able to get rid of Glover.
There was never a whiff of scandal associated with
Glover’s tenure at AHA— indeed, her “Atlanta Model”
has become the paragon for reforming notoriously inept
and corrupt housing authorities across the nation. By
comparison, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in
April 2018: “The sprawling federal investigation into
Atlanta City Hall corruption has now reached the office
of former Mayor Kasim Reed.”
That’s a big “oops” for Reed.
As Reed’s tumultuous tenure at City Hall unfolded,
it became clear that he regarded certain city operations
as ATMs that would spew out vast riches to a small
cadre of cronies. AHA was one such cash gusher— but
it was small potatoes compared to Hartseld-Jackson
International Airport, the grandest of Atlanta political
sleaze factories dating back four decades.
The airport is again in the news— epicenter of
Atlanta’s latest scandal. And Reed’s oversight at AHA
is also in the crosshairs. As the city’s premier business journalist, Maria Saporta, wrote in April 2018:
[G]iven the current federal investigation of bribery
during the administration of former Atlanta Mayor
Kasim Reed, it is an opportune time to find out what’s
behind AHA’s recent activities.”
Another big “oops” for Reed.
In 2002, about nine months before his death, I
asked Maynard Jackson about the persistent buzz that
had he run for a fourth term as mayor in 1994, federal
prosecutors would have busted him for airport corruption. Jackson smiled and guffawed, “People say all sorts
of things.” Two federal law enforcement officials had
told me that story, I explained to the ex-mayor. “Then
they should have indicted me,” Jackson beamed. I
never got Jackson to say “yay” or “nay” on whether the
allegations were correct.
Jackson is a revered presence in Atlanta’s history. I
revere him. He was a damn good mayor in the rst two
of his three terms. But he launched the Atlanta
“machine,” allegedly buying votes with “walking around
money” and bartering city contracts for campaign contributions. A company Jackson founded, Jackmont
Hospitality, gures in many of Reed’s controversial
actions that doled out billions of dollars to his buddies.
Those mayoral pals achieved their cronyhood by, in
turn, enriching Reed’s political campaigns.
It’s called “pay to play,” and it’s at the heart of the
corruption scandals that besieged Reed’s administration and now that of his acolyte, current Mayor Keisha
Lance Bottoms.
News about the scandals have hit an almost regular
patter. Reed allegedly concealed payouts to a red airport boss and allegedly hid fees to law rms trying to
squelch information about the tawdry deals at the airport, in which Reed shoveled the lion’s share of lucrative contracts to his BFFs. An industry website, Boarding
Area, wrote in December 2017: Reed “red the airport’s
general manager a year and a half ago and suggestions
at the time were that the airport GM was insufficiently
corrupt in airport contracting procedures for the
mayor’s preferences.”
This was all more than apparent in the 2011-12 tainted bids for airport concessions. Investigative journalists
and the watchdog Common Cause exposed Reed’s procurement process in which the only thing that counted
was his pick of winners.
In January 2012, as a Common Cause board member, I wrote Reed a letter that described his actions as
a “legal if hardly ethical practice called ‘pay to play.’”
The only thing that has changed since then is that
many Reed administration’s actions were both unethical and illegal.
John F. Sugg has held senior editorial and business positions at
newspapers in Georgia and Florida. He now is the CEO of
Think Atlanta Consulting.


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