ATLANTA (AP) — A federal investigation into corruption at Atlanta City Hall has stretched into Mississippi with a new bribery charge leveled against a former Atlanta city employee and political consultant.
A new indictment filed in Atlanta this week against Mitzi Bickers alleges she tried to get city contracts in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2014 and 2015 by paying for entertainment, transportation and campaign services for that city’s mayor and other city officials.
No Jackson city officials are named or charged in the indictment.
Bickers had helped former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed win election in 2009 and was hired in February 2010 as the city’s director of human services, a job she held until May 2013.
Bickers was previously accused in an indictment in March of soliciting and accepting payments to help steer lucrative Atlanta city contracts to two construction contractors and their companies. She’s also accused of tampering with a witness or informant and filing false tax returns.
Bickers pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges and her attorney, Drew Findling, told The Associated Press Thursday that she will do the same for the new charge. She’s scheduled to be arraigned on the new charge Nov. 5.
The new indictment filed Monday says Bickers helped candidate Tony Yarber with his campaign to become Jackson mayor in an April 2014 special election after the previous mayor died in office. Yarber won in 2014, but lost his re-election bid last year.
The indictment says that beginning in March 2014, Bickers paid for food, flights, hotels, chauffeured car services, entertainment, fundraisers and campaign services for the Jackson mayor and other city officials “in an effort to influence and reward these public officials.”
She tried to get a contract for a convention center hotel project in the city and a program management services contract for the city’s wastewater department, the indictment says. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that she was not successful.
Bickers told a Jackson city employee in May 2015 that the mayor had promised she would receive a city contract and that she “simply needed to ensure that the paperwork looked good enough to justify the award,” the indictment says.
The next month, she became the registered agent for a company called Mississippi Developers.
The new indictment also says Atlanta-based contractor Elvin R. Mitchell Jr. paid for many of the gifts and services provided to Jackson city officials and that he and Bickers tried to get work for that city’s wastewater department. Mitchell pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering charges last year and was sentenced to serve five years in prison and pay more than $1 million in restitution. He also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
The Journal-Constitution reported that Stephanie Coleman, the former equal business opportunity manager for Jackson, filed a lawsuit in February 2017 saying Yarber’s administration tried to steer contracts to Bickers and others.
Coleman told the newspaper and WSB-TV in February of 2017 that Bickers told her Yarber had promised her work with the city and asked Coleman how to make sure her documentation was good enough to win the watershed contract.
Coleman, who settled her lawsuit with the city of Jackson last month for an undisclosed amount, said she had been interviewed by the FBI.
Bickers is one of six people who have been charged in the ongoing Atlanta corruption investigation. The other five have pleaded guilty. Four have been sentenced to prison with the fifth set to be sentenced in January.
They include Reed’s deputy chief of staff, the city’s former chief procurement officer, two construction contractors and a man employed by Bickers who tried to intimidate one of the construction contractors to keep him from talking to federal investigators.
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