In wake of new ethics allegations against long-time Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow, Council President Ceasar Mitchell wants a new position to advise Council members on spending and ethics.
“If we had an internal function that says, ‘wait, you’re going to actually procure this service but we have a checklist here that says this isn’t compliant with the code or this law has changed,’ then I think that could be very helpful and I’ve made that recommendation and I’m going to make that recommendation again,” said Mitchell.
It follows a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution report alleging Councilwoman Winslow broke city procurement rules and used taxpayer funds for political purposes. Winslow has been fined twice since 2010 for similar spending violations.
City Auditor Leslie Ward is disappointed spending issues continue to pop up. Her office issued a report in 2009 aimed at adding safeguards and oversight but it’s largely gone ignored.
“I’ve worked in other cities where nothing like this was allowed to happen,” said Ward.
Mitchell, who was singled out in the 2009 report for a spending violation, believes the Council is now more inclined to discuss the issue.
“There was also this sense amongst Council members that some of those recommendations were political – it was 2009 – so I think that quite frankly has slowed the pace of the Council really digging down and really implementing all those recommendations,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell didn’t elaborate about how elements of the report were politically driven and Ward declined to respond to the claim.
Councilwoman Felicia Moore welcomed a new discussion about spending practices, but hinted at the difficulties ahead. For example, critics say allowing Council members to carry over operating funds to the next year opens the door to misconduct. But Moore, who has a reputation as a stickler on financial issues, said it’s not so straightforward.
“I know that I’m not necessarily the most favored Council member by the executive branch and for me to get a thousand dollars here or ten thousand there to do things that I need to have immediately done it would be difficult if not impossible to appeal to them to find those funds for me,” said Moore.
Mitchell plans to discuss the compliance officer position and other possible reform measures during a planned Council retreat Tuesday.