Bonus Investigation Results Announced
ATLANTA— Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms today announced the results of the investigation conducted by outside counsel of the bonus and monetary payments made at the end of 2017 during the Reed administration. The investigation analyzed three categories of payments: bonuses paid to various members of the executive branch (“Executive Branch Bonuses”); monetary awards paid at City holiday parties (“Holiday Party Awards”); and bonuses paid by City Councilmembers to City Council aides (“Council Bonuses”) (collectively, “Bonuses”). The investigation concluded that all three categories of Bonuses likely violated the Gratuities Clause of the Georgia Constitution. Whether or not the Bonuses violated City law was not as clear, primarily as a result of the confused state of the City Code’s compensation provisions.
The investigation noted that bonuses have been routinely paid by the City, dating as far back as 2008 (which was as far back as City records were available at the time of the investigation). Many of the previously-awarded bonuses appear to have been paid pursuant to Council-approved bonus programs and appear to have complied with applicable law. However, further investigation would be required to determine if all of the previous bonuses complied with the law, which was beyond the scope of the current investigation.
The investigation concluded that, while the Bonuses may not have been expressly authorized by applicable law, it did not appear that the Bonuses were made in conscious disregard of the law or with any improper motive. The investigation concluded that Mayor Kasim Reed made numerous inquiries regarding the legality of the Executive Branch Bonuses prior to their issuance and was informed that they were legal and authorized. The mistaken belief that the Bonuses were legal appears to have been based on a misunderstanding of City law regarding employee compensation authority. It does not appear that the Gratuities Clause was considered in the legal analysis, and it does not appear that the Law Department was consulted prior to the issuance of the Bonuses.
Mayor Bottoms stated, “I appreciate the detailed analysis in the report, and look forward to discussing with members of the City Council additional steps that we can take to make sure that any future bonus payments are fully compliant with all provisions of the law.”
The investigation was led by former City Attorney Michael Coleman and Leslie Suson of the law firm Thompson Hine LLP.