November 1, 2004
By Hamil R. Harris
A federal grand jury has indicted former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, charging him with racketeering, corruption, bribery, and tax fraud for allegedly accepting thousands of dollars from business owners in exchange for lucrative city contracts during his tenure as mayor.
Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, flanked by special agents from the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, and the Department of Justice’s public integrity unit, announced the seven-count indictment during an Atlanta press conference. The indictment, unsealed Aug. 30, alleged that Campbell accepted more than $150,000 in cash payments in exchange for contracts, which he used for travel, home improvement, and gambling.
“The determination to present charges to a grand jury is a decision that we all take very seriously,” Yates said in a statement during the press conference. “Great care has also been taken to ensure that Mayor Campbell and his team of lawyers had an opportunity to provide any information that they thought should be considered in making a prosecutive decision.”
As Campbell stood silently in the room, Yates offered details that painted a troubling picture of Campbell’s tenure as the mayor of Atlanta between 1994 and 2002. In one count, Campbell is accused of soliciting and accepting $55,000 from a computer contractor who was awarded a no-bid contract to provide services to the city of Atlanta to prevent a Y2K computer crash in 1999. According to Yates, Campbell asked, “What’s in it for me?” when he was approached by a subcontractor acting as a middleman for the computer contractor, to which the subcontractor responded, “Whatever it takes.”
Another charge claims a contractor who was bidding on a city contract financed a new heating and air conditioning system at Campbell’s home in the summer of 1996. The indictment further alleges that in 1997, a Water Filter Co. executive cashed a $25,000 check for Campbell to travel to Memphis, Tennessee, and Tunica, Mississippi, for a gambling trip; in April 1998, the city awarded that company a sole-source purchase order that was allegedly inflated by $400,000 to pay the consultant who arranged the payment for the gambling trip.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jones said that 10 individuals, including three top aides to Campbell, have already been convicted or pleaded guilty as the result of a five-year investigation that turned up “numerous allegations of corruption, bribery, tax fraud, perjury, obstruction of justice, and illegal campaign contributions.”
Larry Wallace, who served as the chief operating officer for the city of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud in this case. Joseph Reid, who was the city’s deputy chief operating officer, also pleaded guilty to bribery. Herbert McCall, formerly the city’s commissioner of administrative services, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Still, Campbell maintains his innocence. The 51-year-old lawyer now lives in South Florida and works for the law firm headed by millionaire trial lawyer Willie Gary. Calls to Campbell and his office were not returned, but the Associated Press reported that Campbell told reporters following the press conference, “The only