ATLANTA — The city of Atlanta confirmed Wednesday that it has fired two longtime city officials whose names came up in testimony during the Mitzi Bickers’ bribery trial.
The star prosecution witness testified that Bickers, a former campaign aide to then-Mayor Kasim Reed, who later worked for his administration, told the witness that Cotena Alexander and Rita Braswell were “our people” at city hall.
Mayor Andre Dickens’ office told reporters during the trial that the city knew nothing of the alleged roles of Alexander and Braswell before the trial began in early March.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher obtained letters Wednesday showing that Alexander, a senior transportation official, was notified of her termination Friday, April 29.
Braswell, a senior official in public works, was notified of her termination Monday, May 2.
Each letter stated that the employee could be terminated with or without cause. Neither employee was given a cause.
A federal jury convicted Bickers of eight counts of bribery, money laundering and tax evasion after a two week trial in March.
City officials had been awaiting the trial since Bickers was indicted in April of 2018, but they were shaken by the trial testimony and prosecutors’ remarks about Alexander and Braswell, both of whom had remained in top city positions years after Bickers was charged.
Going into the trial, we knew that contractor E.R. Mitchell had already gone to prison for paying $2 million in bribes to Bickers.
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Mitchell testified the payoffs were to win city contracts, which he did. But until the trial, federal prosecutors had not identified Bickers suspected contract fixer inside city hall. That ended during the prosecution’s opening statement.
The prosecution told the jury Alexander was a Bickers’ contact for steering contracts to Mitchell. Prosecutors said Bickers had helped Alexander pay off $30,000 in credit card bills.
The city’s former public works commissioner testified that Alexander steered millions of dollars in snow removal contracts to Mitchell in January-February of 2014 even though Mitchell was not on the city’s pre-approved list of contractors.
Mitchell testified that Bickers once described both Alexander and Braswell as “our guys at city hall.”
Braswell actually testified for the prosecution, but Alexander never appeared.
Defense lawyers had subpoenaed her, but she said on the eve of the trial that she would take the 5th rather than testify.
After the verdict, Bickers’ lead lawyer Drew Findling complained that despite playing an important role in the prosecution’s case, Alexander’s failure to take the stand put his client at an unfair advantage.
“This witness....(was) referenced hundreds of times in documents in actual testimony and we did not have the benefit of cross examining that person....Obviously it is going to be an issue that is pursued aggressively in an appeal to the 11th Circuit (federal appeals court). That you can rest assured,” Findling said.
Bickers is scheduled to be sentenced July 12.
Belcher texted with Alexander for a comment Wednesday, but she has not responded.
William McKenney, the attorney for Braswell, has not responded to Belcher’s voicemail.
Alexander’s city salary was $170,000 a year. Rita Braswell earned $141,173 a year.
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