ANALYSIS: Ceasar Mitchell’s Disastrous Record as Council President
This news analysis reviews a wide array of concerns regarding Mr. Mitchell, including concerns regarding his performance as Council President; and his many repeated ethics violations.
Previously, Atlanta Progressive News has published analyses regarding numerous candidates in this race, Councilwoman Mary Norwood (Post 2-at-large), Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2), former State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), former Council President Cathy Woolard, Peter Aman, and Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11).
MITCHELL’S PERFORMANCE AS COUNCIL PRESIDENT
Atlanta Progressive News has observed dozens of Full Council Meetings over the last twelve years. APN has had numerous interactions with the Council staff over whom Mitchell has had oversight for the last eight years.
These observations and interactions give APN a window into Mitchell’s record as Council President – a role that in some ways can be quite invisible to the public.
Ceasar Mitchell was silent when APN’s News Editor had to take the City of Atlanta all the way to the Supreme Court of Georgia in order to get the City Council to disclose their secret vote of 2010.
In 2010, Committee on Council Chairwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) conducted an unrecorded vote (“the secret vote”) regarding whether to explore setting a multi-Committee public comment limit.
In 2012, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled, in Cardinale v. City of Atlanta, that the Georgia Open Meetings Act requires that vote details be recorded for both roll call and non-roll call votes. After two years, the City Council went back and revised the minutes of the meeting to list the yeas and nays.
Ceasar Mitchell could have done something. He could have spoken out against secrecy, on behalf of transparency. Ceasar Mitchell was silent, requiring intervention by the judicial branch to simply tell the public how Councilmembers voted.
Then on the issue of the closed-door Committee Briefings. APN learned about the Council’s practice of holding seven closed-door Committee Briefings every cycle; and the present writer filed another lawsuit.
Ceasar Mitchell defended the practice, until we maneuvered the City into a legal corner involving quorums, notice requirements, and then-Attorney General Sam Olens.
Again, Ceasar Mitchell could have done something. Ceasar Mitchell was silent.
Councilwoman Moore opened one Briefing, then Natalyn Archibong (District 5) opened a second. Finally, all seven were opened to the public.
Kwanza Hall (District 2) finally introduced legislation in 2013 subjecting the Committee Briefings to open meetings requirements.
In recent months, the Council President Mitchell took a “show of hands” vote on a motion by Ivory Lee Young (District 3) to give more public comment time to a particular member of the public who had signed up to speak and run out of time.
His calling for a “show of hands” vote was problematic because the Municipal Clerk had an imperfect record of the vote. She noted that Moore voted nay; however, the minutes would suggest that all other Councilmembers voted yea, when, in fact, a couple Councilmembers were not present.
So not only do we not have a valid record of the yeas and nays, but worst of all: Mr. Mitchell obviously learned absolutely nothing from the two years it took to prevail at the Supreme Court of Georgia on this very subject!
Then there was the time Mr. Mitchell’s office staff called security on APN’s News Editor–during the height of the open meetings litigation–and we’re still displeased about that incident.
Mr. Mitchell frequently allows the Full Council Meetings to lose their quorums. On several occasions, citizens including Ben Howard and the present writer, have stood up at Council Meetings to state that the quorum has been lost.
It shouldn’t be the job of citizens to make sure the quorum requirement is being met.
It takes eight Councilmembers to make a quorum. If Ceasar Mitchell cannot count to eight, how is he qualified to be the Mayor of Atlanta?
Ceasar Mitchell’s administrative leadership of the Council office has been so disastrous that numerous policy analysts have left the City of Atlanta to pursue other positions.
This has left the fifteen Councilmembers–who share the analysts for such functions as legislative drafting–in a difficult position, because the Council Offices have been understaffed.
APN is familiar with some of the same underlying issues that led to dissatisfaction in the Council Office.
The role of Mayor is obviously so much broader and of substantive importance than that of the Council President. We can look at how Mitchell has performed as Council President, a role that is much more narrow and procedural, to see that we should not promote him to the position of Mayor.
As has been widely reported, Mitchell’s public service record thus far has been characterized by repeat violations of state and city ethics laws, failure to disclose campaign contributions, failure to disclose campaign expenditures, and failure to file timely reports.
After Mitchell’s most recent found of ethics violations, there were defections from his Mayoral campaign. TJ Copeland, who was Mitchell’s campaign manager, resigned earlier this year and was hired by the Peter Aman for Mayor campaign.
In January 2009, Mitchell paid 15,000 dollars to settle a complaint with the City of Atlanta Ethics Office, where he made affirmatively false statements on city ethics forms.
In 2007 and 2008, Mr. Mitchell answered “No” on his City Financial Disclosure Statement to the following question: “[H]as your spouse… brother, sister, or child derived any benefit from any transaction with the City directly or through a business in which they have a majority or controlling interest?”
However, Mitchell had in fact employed his brother, David Mitchell, through his brother’s consulting firm, even for two years after the City amended its ethics laws to prohibit such employment.
Then, in 2016, a Fox 5 news investigation by Dale Russell revealed issues related to an Atlanta Next PAC that was supporting Mitchell.
This report led to a several months-long investigation by the State Ethics Commission, in which they subpoenaed bank records related to his campaign and PAC.
They discovered disclosure failures, failures to file on time, and the failure to disclose his campaign committee.
Mitchell failed to report more than 250,000 dollars in campaign expenditures and 35,000 dollars in contributions.
He had failed to file three years of reports, until filing late and paying a late fee.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2017)