Atlanta Councilman Bond Settles Multi-Issue Ethics Investigation (UPDATE 1)
(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) has entered into a settlement with the City’s Board of Ethics regarding several violations of Atlanta’s Code of Ethics. The settlement was approved by the Board during their January 15, 2015 meeting.
Atlanta Progressive News contacted Bond for an interview, but he noted that one of the conditions of the settlement is that he not speak publicly about the matter.
Bond was able to issue a written statement, however.
“I apologize to the citizens of Atlanta whose confidence in me may have been shaken by this episode, and sincerely hope they will allow me to work to regain their trust and confidence. I commit to never again place my office, my public service, or myself in question,” Bond wrote.
“I do acknowledge that I am responsible for the appearance of a conflict of interest and violations of the code of ethics. Accordingly, I accept full responsibility for my actions and for the operations of my office. Accountability is the first imperative. I have campaign on the platform of accountability throughout my political career and to that end, submit to you that all responsibility rest with me,” Bond wrote.
The video of the ethics meeting is not currently available on the City’s website. [However, not much competence can be expected from the employee responsible for the videos, Damon Massenberg, as apparently, he has no interest in serving the public and no one is willing to hold him accountable. But we digress…]
The investigative record will not be available for several days, per the Georgia Open Records Act.
Several issues were outlined in the settlement document.
In 2010, Councilman Bond received an advance of over 3,000 dollars to attend a conference organized by the Congressional Black Caucus, but he did not attend the conference nor did he repay the City.
From 2010 to 2014, Bond requested and received tickets for him and others to attend Dragon*Con, and in 2012 a Chaka Khan concert. The Ethics Office found that this was a violation of the Atlanta Ethics Code, which prohibits the receipt of tickets or admission at a price lower than one would receive if they were not a City official or employee.
In 2013, Bond used 2,590 dollars in City funds to pay for a math tutor, at least in part to help Bond prepare his application to a graduate degree program. The Ethics Office said at least some of the tutoring was for personal benefit. Bond told the Ethics Office at least half of the tutoring was for his studying, presumably for the Graduate Record Exam.
In 2014, Bond used city funds and city staff to prepare CDs and DVDs for the Frederick Douglass High School Class of 1984 Reunion. He had his staff copy music records over to CDs; personal photographs to DVDs; and videos of his Council appearances to DVDs.
He also had City of Atlanta pins prepared for the reunion, with City funds.
The Ethics Office took issue because the funds were used for what it considered to be private, not public, purposes.
Also in 2014, Bond attended in a conference in Washington, D.C., in which he attended various work-related meetings as well as a family reunion. The Ethics Office contended that attending the family reunion was using city funds for personal benefit.
When Bond went to D.C., WXIA Channel 11 television news flew to D.C. to take video footage of Bond attending the reunion. Reporter Catie Beck’s investigation into Bond’s expenditures prompted further investigation by the Ethics Office.
Also in 2014, Bond hosted a reception for the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which was not in connection with any City resolution. Typically, organizations have to pay to hold a reception in Council Chambers, but Bond allowed the Chambers to be used for free. Also Bond’s office paid for the food at the reception.
Jabu Sengova in the Ethics Office told Atlanta Progressive News that the issue was that the funds were used for a private organization, not in connection with official city businesses. When receptions are hosted with public funds, in connection with a City proclamation, that is acceptable, she said.
Finally, also in 2014, Bond attended a reunion of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, using city funds. While in Boston, Massachusetts, Bond conducted research regarding a historical walking trail in Boston, in connection with the civil rights historical trail Bond was working on in Atlanta.
The Ethics Office contended the use of city funds for this trip resulted in private gain.
Bond has agreed to pay a civil penalty of 3,900 dollars, consisting of 400 dollars for each of the times that tickets or admissions were received by Bond (2,400 dollars); and 250 dollars for each of the six times that city funds or resources were improperly used (1,500 dollars).
Bond has paid $11,320.81 in reimbursement for the 2010 conference he did not attend; the Delta Sigma Theta reception; production of the CDs, DVDs, and pins for the high school reunion; one half of the D.C. trip; one half of the Boston trip; and one half of the math tutoring.
APN has obtained copies of two cashier’s checks to the City of Atlanta reflecting the reimbursement payments in full.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that CBS 46 had followed Bond to D.C., airing a story that prompted the ethics investigation. In fact it was WXIA Channel 11, also known as 11Alive news.
A previous version of this article stated that Bond was staying in the same hotel in D.C. as the family reunion; however, Channel 11’s reporting does not state as such.