Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond has agreed to pay more than $15,000 in fines and restitution for more than a dozen violations of the city’s ethics code on spending and accepting gifts.
An investigation by the city’s Ethics Office allege Bond used thousands of dollars in public money for personal use. The six-page settlement details how Bond billed the city for thousands of dollars in travel he did not take, used city funds and staff time to create $1,700 worth of DVDs and pins for his high school class reunion and accepted dozens of free tickets to events such as the annual Dragon Con comic convention held in downtown Atlanta.
Bond even used staffers to digitally record his album collection.
Atlanta’s ethics office decided to review Bond’s spending this summer after Atlanta television station WXIA aired a report alleging Bond used city funds for a trip to Washington D.C. where he attended his family reunion. Bond defended the trip as legitimate city business. But the settlement said Bond missed some of his meetings with federal officials and was seen attending family reunion events.
Bond issued a statement late Thursday apologizing for the ethics code violations.
“I accept full responsibility for my actions and for the operations of my office,” Bond said. “Accountability is the first imperative. I have campaigned on the platform of accountability throughout my political career and to that end, submit to you that all responsibility rests with me.”
Atlanta Ethics Officer Nina Hickson said the focus of her investigation into Bond’s spending was on the discretionary funds that he and each councilman is allotted to run their offices. Members of the Atlanta council are provided hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to cover travel, training and other expenses related to running their offices.
During the course of that investigation, Hickson said, her office discovered evidence that Bond had also accepted free tickets to events in the metro area, which is a violation of the city’s ethics code.
“We are confident we did a thorough investigation,” Hickson said. “It won’t be resolved until the board hears the matter.”
In the settlement agreement, Bond agrees to pay $3,900 in fines and $11,320 in restitution.
Bond is paying a $400 fine for each of the six times he accepted tickets in violation of the city’s ethics code. The settlement says Bond accepted VIP badges — 25 total — for his family to attend Dragon Con in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. It also says Bond accepted tickets for family members for a 2012 Chaka Khan concert in Cobb.
Bond is paying $250 each for six violations of misusing city funds. Those violations are mainly based on travel paid for by taxpayers unrelated to city business, such as a trip to a Harvard University for a class reunion.
The $11,320 in restitution covers travel expenses, reimbursement for a sorority reception Bond funded with city money and the cost of the party favors for his high school reunion.
The seven-member ethics board will now decide whether to accept the settlement.