Kasim Reed on Thursday officially announced his intentions to return to Atlanta’s City Hall by formally launching his latest campaign to be mayor of Georgia’s capital city.
And while that part may not be much of a surprise — what with Reed, who was Atlanta’s mayor for two terms from 2010 to 2018, having already publicly filed paperwork to enter the field of candidates — what may catch some folks off-guard is the fact that a federal investigation into corruption allegedly committed by his administration is still ongoing.
“I’m back!” Reed, 52, proclaimed during a birthday celebration Thursday night that also served as an event to formally launch his latest campaign to be mayor of Atlanta.
Reed enjoys the highest level of name recognition among the existing mayoral candidates. But that familiarity could also help revive the short memories of people who had forgotten the details of the bribery and corruption scandal that engulfed his office as mayor in the not too distant past.
He made sure to say last month that he as an individual has never been accused of any wrongdoing. Six members of Reed’s administration were indicted, including his chief procurement officer and one of his deputy chiefs of staff who have already been convicted.
According to a detailed timeline of the corruption investigation into Atlanta City Hall under Reed’s administration, the probe has been largely dormant for about a year. However, the chief financial officer in Reed’s administration remains under indictment for fraud and weapons charges, showing the investigation is still open.
Whether fair or not, guilt by association is a very real thing.
When local news outlet WSB-TV questioned last month how so much corruption was able to happen on his watch, Reed deflected and suggested it’s impossible to keep tabs on each and everybody in “a 9,000-person organization.” He emphasized that he was never accused of anything and challenged WSB-TV to tell him what he could have done differently.
“I would love to have another interview where you and I sit down and you explain to me why I should have known or how I should have known,” Reed said before apologizing.
“Anything on my watch, I take responsibility for,” Reed added. “I’m sorry I didn’t see it faster, and certainly after what I’ve been through personally, but more importantly what our city was taken through, I would do everything in my power to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
The vacancy in Atlanta’s City Hall comes after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms shocked her supporters last month by making the “very difficult decision” of declining another run for office. Bottoms is the first incumbent mayor since Maynard Jackson who chose to not seek reelection. Reed now becomes the city’s first former mayor since Jackson to seek a third term in office.
In spite of the ongoing federal investigation into Reed’s former staff, he is still a political force to be reckoned with in Atlanta.
“No one should underestimate the power that Kasim Reed wields in the city, and anyone who does is making a grave mistake,” Winfield Murray, a former deputy chief of staff to Bottoms and lawyer who teaches constitutional law at Morehouse College, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.