ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta leaders want to call in outside lawyers to investigate after former Mayor Kasim Reed's administration gave more than $518,000 in bonuses to city employees during Reed's last days in office.
They included prizes for lip sync and ugly sweater contests, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .
At least $36,000 was given by drawing names from a hat during a December holiday party, the newspaper reported. Another $31,000 went to winners of the lip sync and sweater contests.
"It just reminded me of someone having money and throwing it in the air and letting everybody catch it," Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said. "It's just unconscionable."
The top aide to current Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told city council members this week that the mayor's office wants an outside law firm to investigate whether the gifts were a proper use of tax dollars.
Rewarding employees for their service has been common practice in Atlanta, and the bonuses were proper, Reed's spokesman said in a statement:
"These bonuses were appropriate and Mayor Reed believes that the individuals who received the bonuses were worthy of them based upon their contributions to the City of Atlanta's unprecedented growth and fiscal stability," he said.
The bonuses angered members of the police union, which had been told for years there was no money for bonuses to help recruit and retain Atlanta police officers.
"Don't lie to us and say there's no money when there's bonuses for a lip sync contest," said Atlanta police Lt. Steve Zygaj, president of the local police union.
Rank-and-file employees see these bonuses as a slap in the face, said Ken Allen, a former police union president and officer who retired from the police department after 30 years.
"I guess Reed had to have his Oprah Winfrey moment," Allen said. "'You get 10 grand, you get 10 grand!'"