Council Candidate Bacote Responds to APN, Ethics Issues
(APN) ATLANTA — Samuel Bacote, a candidate for Atlanta City Council District 5, responded to an article appearing in Atlanta Progressive News regarding his support for certain tax breaks during his time of service on the Fulton County Development Authority.
Bacote requested an interview, but after learning that APN was looking into ethics issues involving his receipt of excessive stipends while on the Board of Directors of the Authority, he apparently lost interest in doing the interview.
Previously, APN ran an article regarding Mr. Bacote’s candidacy, including his long record of public service and his prior selection by the iconic Oprah Winfrey program as the most romantic man in America.
The article noted that as a Board Member and the former Treasurer of the Development Authority of Fulton County, Bacote defended and supported a practice of giving controversial tax abatements to developers wishing to do business within Fulton County, despite the inclusion of few, if any, affordable housing units in the projects.
Because developers were going around the City of Atlanta’s affordable housing policies to get funding from the Fulton County Development Authority whenever they wanted to avoid paying taxes but not provide affordable housing, the City of Atlanta has had to adopt a reactive policy, requiring developers within City limits receiving funding from a development authority to provide the affordable units anyway.
Still, the Fulton County Development Authority continues to provide tax abatements without affordability requirements: this has encouraged developers to go outside City limits but within Fulton County limits to obtain the best financial terms for their projects.
In addition, the FCDA has been able to get around the City of Atlanta’s policies by supporting commercial projects, rather than residential projects, with tax breaks.
This is suggestive that Bacote, if elected, would be pro-developer and may undermine the City’s affordable housing policy efforts.
Jonathan Dodd, Bacote’s campaign manager, took issue. “I’m Sam Bacote’s Campaign Manager! I’m writing too [sic] you to let you know that’s [sic] we are disappointed & unhappy about the article you wrote in the Progressive news!”
“In our opinion you wrote an untrue and negative article about Mr Bacote without letting him respond!” Dodd wrote. However, Dodd identified no specific untrue facts warranting correction.
Also, Mr. Bacote was not available at the time of the APN article publication as he had suspended his campaign at the time to attend an out-of-state funeral, according to his campaign website.
“We asking you too [sic] let him respond publicly to this article, so the the [sic] constituents of district 5 will know the truth & his point of view,” Dodd wrote.
APN offered to schedule an interview with Bacote but notified Dodd that APN was also looking into ethics issues involving Bacote’s receipt of excessive stipends while on the Authority Board. Dodd never got back to schedule the interview.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, Bacote received some 39,750 dollars in stipends for Board Service from 2015 to 2021.
Bacote would take separate stipends for Board Meetings, other government meetings, site visits, and community meetings, Bene said.
Dodd told APN that Bacote only took the money because it was the existing practice; and that the ethics complaint had not been brought directly against Bacote, but that Bacote had become caught up in it.
“In November 2020, I became an elected officer of the DAFC Board,” Bacote wrote in a July 23, 2021 letter posted to his campaign website.
“It was at that time, prior to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s articles, that I discovered several questionable pending financial transactions that I did not approve, and we subsequently developed our new, stronger financial policies,” Bacote said.
“One of these is the new per diem policy, limiting directors to only one per diem payment per day,” he said, explaining that the Board Secretary had told him in 2009 it was acceptable to take multiple stipends per day.
But that was only one of the issues involving Mr. Bacote.
“One of the things we uncovered was self-dealing,” Bene added.
“The Board voted itself a twenty-five thousand dollars a piece discretionary funds they could give to causes they support. He [Bacote, while running for office] wanted to give it to a Reynoldstown business group and another in Cabbagetown, who would’ve been delighted and felt beholden to him,” Bene said.
“They [the Board] said they need more information. Bacote says he will recuse himself, but he’s the one who brought it up. The guy is a piece of work,” Bene said.
In September 2020, the City of Atlanta adopted a resolution asking the FCDA to stop granting tax breaks within the City of Atlanta altogether.
“Bacote was one of the most prominent ‘up yours – we know better, I know better than the entire City Council, including those who sit on Atlanta’s Board [Atlanta Development Authority Board of Directors], I know better than APS,’” Bene said.
Bacote also at first refused to resign from the FCDA Board after announcing his run for office, only resigning after pressure from the community.
In addition to previously publishing Bacote’s responses, APN published Bakhtiari’s questionnaire responses:
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)