Atlanta City Hall Atlanta City Hall (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s deputy chief of staff has been charged with conspiring to accept bribes and is expected to plead guilty, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak announced Wednesday.

Evelyn Katrina Taylor-Parks, 49, who served as Reed’s deputy chief of staff beginning when he took office in January 2010, was charged in a criminal information with one count of conspiratorial bribery in a plea deal with the government, according to the U.S. attorney. She is expected to plead guilty to the charge at a hearing on Aug. 13.

“As the Deputy Chief of Staff, the City of Atlanta and its citizens placed immeasurable trust in Parks to act in the best interests of the city,” Pak said. “Public officials have a responsibility to lead with integrity. Regrettably, Parks allegedly exchanged the power and trust given to her for bribe money paid by a city contractor.”

Jay Strongwater, Taylor-Parks’ attorney, said the former deputy chief of staff “is devastated by the charges.”

“She has resigned her position with the city,” he said, adding he appreciated a statement Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms released Wednesday. He declined further comment.

Bottoms said she was saddened to learn Taylor-Parks was the subject of a criminal investigation. After Reed left office, Taylor-Parks remained at City Hall serving as deputy chief of staff for the new mayor.

“These unfortunate developments stand in stark contrast to her reputation as an effective and experienced City Hall executive,” Bottoms said. “Her service to this administration was brief. After taking personal leave for several months, Parks made the decision recently to retire.”

“Our administration has been steadfast in its commitment to create extraordinary and innovative new transparency safeguards,” Bottoms added,  “while at the same time assisting federal prosecutors each step of the way in their ongoing investigation.”

 

From 2011-2014, Taylor-Parks conspired to accept bribes from a city hall vendor who allegedly paid her thousands of dollars in return for tens of thousands of dollars in city contract work, federal prosecutors said. Taylor-Parks also filed personal financial disclosure statements with the city in which she allegedly attested falsely that she was not self-employed or employed by any business or entity other than the city, prosecutors said.

But the federal criminal information filed Wednesday states that a business owned by Taylor-Parks received a $2,000 check from a city vendor in January 2013 and that Taylor-Parks’ husband received $2,000 from the vendor two months later.

Pak did not identify the vendor in his public statement announcing Taylor-Parks’ prosecution. But according to the information, the vendor secured more than $80,000 in city business.

Reed stepped down as mayor at the end of his second term in January, but Taylor-Parks remained as deputy chief of staff until May, prosecutors said.

On her Linkedin page, she described herself as “a problem solver with more than 20 years in public service” with an understanding of  “the ins and outs of municipal government, public policy, finance, city planning, economic development and community engagement.”

“I am clear that the opportunity and responsibility of public servants—whether elected or not—is to keep our promises, solve our constituents’ problems, leverage partnerships to strengthen communities and do the people’s business,” she said.

Taylor-Parks is the sixth person—and the third former city official—prosecuted in the ongoing federal corruption investigation at Atlanta City Hall.

In April, a federal grand jury in Atlanta indicted Mitzi Bickers—a pastor, political consultant, former member of the Atlanta Board of Education and Reed’s one-time Human Services director—on felony charges that included conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, wire fraud, witness tampering and filing false tax returns. The indictment charged Bickers of accepting more than $2 million to steer contracts to construction company owners and longtime City Hall vendors E.R. Mitchell Jr. and Charles Richards.

Bickers is currently free on a $50,000 surety bond.

Last January, Adam Lorenzo Smith, the city’s longtime chief procurement officer and an attorney, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for engaging in a bribery conspiracy for accepting more than $40,000 in bribes. Smith surrendered his bar license last February—a year after he was escorted from City Hall the same day federal authorities served a search warrant on the city and seized his computer.

In November, Shandarrick Barnes, a 41-year-old convicted felon, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the corruption probe. Barnes was charged after federal authorities identified him as the man who lobbed a concrete block through a window at Mitchell’s home with a note warning him to “keep your mouth shut” in an attempt to prevent Mitchell from cooperating with prosecutors. He is serving a 27-month prison sentence.

Mitchell, pleaded guilty in January 2017 to a single bribery conspiracy charge after he admitted he paid more than $1 million to an unidentified individual in return for city contracts. Mitchell is currently serving five years in prison.

The following month, Richards pleaded guilty to participating in a bribery conspiracy by paying at last $185,000 in order to secure city contracts. Richards was sentenced last October to a 27-month prison term.