Atlanta, GA – The City of Atlanta’s finance department has taken $175,000 from a fund earmarked to buy new police vehicles in order to purchase two luxury GMC Denalis to chauffeur Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The funds were part of a $2.6 million plan that was intended to purchase 91 new patrol vehicles for the Atlanta Police Department (APD), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Although the city council approved the original mass purchase in 2017, the two Denalis were not included on the list the council endorsed.
“You can’t ask the council to approve a list of vehicles and then turn around and use the money for something else,” Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore told the paper.
Despite the intended allocation and the lack of approval from the city council, the city’s finance department took $175,000 from the fund to purchase the luxury SUVs in February of 2018, just one month after Bottoms took office, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Bottoms denied having requested the SUVs, and noted that the plan for purchasing them was well underway before she became mayor.
“I was told they needed to order new cars, but I wasn’t mayor then,” she said.
Her spokesperson said that the city wasn’t required to abide by the list of vehicles provided to the city council in 2017, and argued that the luxury SUVs are still technically police vehicles used to provide for Bottoms’ safety and protection, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
But fraud expert Victor Hartman noted that the purchase was likely made in violation of the city’s charter due to the fact that the total amount exceeded the $100,000 limit for discretionary equipment purchases.
Both vehicles were listed on a single $175,000 invoice.
The SUVs are also equipped with emergency lights and advanced communications systems, as well as premium floor mats, perforated leather seats, a chrome grille, and 22-inch rims as part of an “ultimate package,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
According to email records, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields asked then-Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard to replace one of the mayor’s vehicles due to high mileage back in December of 2017 – just two days after Bottoms was elected.
APD later upped the request to two vehicles.
The vehicles were ordered by Atlanta Police Captain David Jones, who oversees the mayor’s executive protection unit.
On Dec. 13, 2017, the city’s fleet manager notified Beard that a vendor had two SUVs that Capt. Jones had requested.
“I need this handled today,” Beard told the fleet manager two days later, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It is unclear why the matter became urgent, and Beard’s attorney said that any questions about the purchases should be directed to Chief Shields, according to the paper.
Chief Shields and Capt. Jones have not responded to requests for comment, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Bottoms’ affinity for being chauffeured around in luxury vehicles made headlines back in July of 2018, when it was revealed that she spent over $11,651 in taxpayer dollars for services provided by Carey Executive Limousine during her first five months in office, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.
Those rides came at an average cost of $431 per trip, according to the paper.
Bottoms’ use of Carey Executive Limousine’s services during that five-month period surpassed the amount former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed spent on luxury car services for all of 2015 and 2017, and fell just short of the $13,000 Reed spent in total for 2016, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“It was an expedient solution, and had already been assessed for safety, reliability and professional utility,” Bottoms’ spokesperson said at the time.