Councilman Bond faces $15,000 ethics settlement for accepting Dragon*Con tickets, misusing city cash, other violations (Update)


An Atlanta City Councilman could be required to pay the city more than $15,000 to settle an ethics case related to his acceptance of free tickets, receiving travel advances for personal trips, and numerous other violations.

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond will decide whether to sign on to a massive settlement that could be approved at tonight's meeting of the city's ethics board. If the board approves the proposed settlement's terms, the at-large councilman will pay a $3,900 civil penalty and reimburse $11,320 to the city he received for business costs, but used ultimately for personal expenditures. Bond will have 30 days to pay back the city for those advanced expenses.

Atlanta Ethics Officer Nina Hickson, who filed the complaint last August, tells CL that the term settlement, including what Bond is admitting and his exact fine, could change at tonight's meeting. Hickson says it would be the largest ethics settlement since the board was created.

According to the agreement, Bond would accept responsibility for the offenses and promised to not dispute the settlement's findings. Bond tells CL that he's not allowed to comment, citing the terms of the proposed settlement, until after it's approved. But the councilman said he had already paid the city back for the expenses in question.

Here's a timeline of the alleged offenses outlined in the proposed settlement:

September 2010: Bond received an approximately $3,000 travel advance to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Conference in Washington D.C. He did not attend the conference or repay the advance to the city. Four years later, once the complaint was filed, he agreed to repay the advance through payroll deduction.

September 2011: Bond requested and received complimentary admission and VIP badges to Dragon*Con for six family members. He then presented the convention organizers with a city proclamation.

April 2012: Using his elected office, Bond received four tickets to a WCLK concert featuring Chaka Khan at the Cobb Energy Centre, plus access to a VIP reception. The councilman presented Khan with a city proclamation during the concert.

August-September 2012: Bond requested and received a complimentary Dragon*Con VIP pass for himself and eight free passes for his family members. He gave another city proclamation to Dragon*Con's organizers. He also presented proclamations to Stargate and MacGyver star Richard Dean Anderson and Doctor Who actor John Barrowman. He also gave commendations to Adam West and Burt Ward, the original actors who played Batman and Robin, respectively, and named September 1 to be "Adam West Day and Burt Ward Day" in Atlanta.

August-September 2013: Bond once again gave Dragon*Con's organizers a city proclamation. The councilman received another complimentary VIP badge for himself. He made sure 11 family members got into the convention for free.

September-October 2013: Bond used $2,590 in city funds to pay for a private tutor from 21stEd LLC. Some of the tutoring helped Bond better understand "finance concepts" related to his role on the city's employee pension fund board. According to the settlement, Bond used at least half of the hours to prepare for taking the GRE exam in an effort to gain admission to a master's degree program.

March 2014: In association with "Delta Day at the Capitol," Bond spent $2,150 in city funds for a breakfast for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority's local alumni chapter. He also let the group hold the event in Council's chambers, a venue that usually costs $1,500, free of charge.

June 2014: Bond used his Council staff to plan "several activities" related to Frederick Douglass High School's Class of 1984 reunion. For roughly six months, Bond's staff transferred films from his Council appearances to VHS. He also had his employees digitize his photographs and vinyl record collection to create a CD/DVD for the reunion. Bond used $900 in city funds to pay for the CD/DVD production for the reunion. He also used another $827 to produce pins for the high school alumni event.

July 2014: In advance of a four-day trip to Washington D.C., Bond received more than $2,400 in public funds. Though he attended some meetings with cultural attraction officials and was scheduled to meet a D.C. councilman, Bond participated in numerous events related to his family reunion during the trip.

August 2014: Bond received a travel advance of nearly $1,400 in public funds to travel to Boston. He studied walking trails for "research related to the African American Heritage trail project" he's worked on in Atlanta. He also attended the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government reunion.

August-September 2014: For the fourth consecutive year, Bond obtained free Dragon*Con passes for himself, 10 family members, and one staff member. At the request of convention organizers, he presented a proclamation to one-time Star Trek: Voyager actress Jeri Ryan.

Common Cause Georgia Executive Director William Perry commends the city's ethics board for holding Bond accountable for his abuse of taxpayer dollars. But Perry thinks that officials should now introduce new safeguards to prevent future spending violations. Without such changes, Perry says, the door remains open for further financial wrongdoing.

"I can't say the $3,900 in civil penalties is enough punishment for his egregious acts," Perry tells CL. "Perhaps it's an appropriate amount, perhaps not. But either way, I think he should take bold steps to help restore the public's trust by introducing strong measures to allow for greater oversight and stricter rules regarding council members' office budgets."

We've included a copy of the proposed ethics settlement after the jump:

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UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.: Atlanta's ethics board has unanimously accepted the settlement between Bond and Hickson. Bond has since issued a formal apology, which we've embedded below:

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