- Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Tuesday unveiled the city's first-ever "Open Checkbook," an online portal that will allow the public to access city budgets, expenditures, salaries and contracts with vendors.
- The portal, which was announced in April, will also offer historical trends and projected expenses "regardless of financial acumen" to allow users to analyze the city's spending.
- MyAJC reports that the launch of the portal follows the investigation of corrupt activity among city government officials — most recently, former Deputy Chief of Staff Katrina Taylor Parks pleading guilty to accepting a bribe — though Bottoms assured the timing is a coincidence.
Since Atlanta fell victim to a ransomware attack across the city's technical infrastructure earlier this year, Mayor Bottoms has been quick to initiate damage control and address the public on the city's actions. "I think it's very clear that people are concerned about where we are with ethics and transparency in the City of Atlanta," she said during an April 10 press conference.
The city has long struggled to achieve a strong standard of government transparency, and in 2013 was graded an 'F' in a report on transparency in city spending. The Open Checkbook portal — which mimics similar portals in Dallas, Austin and DC — is a big leap toward improving citizen relations and engagement, and ensuring that city leaders remain on task with budgeting and spending.
In fact, this focus on transparency has not only sparked the Open Checkbook initiative, but has also motivated Bottoms to reassess cabinet members. In April, Bottoms asked for the resignation letters of 26 high-level city officials, including Chief Financial Officer John Gaffney, police chief Erika Shields and City Attorney Jeremy Berry.
"This is a reboot for us as a city," she said during the press conference. "We will be stronger on the other side of this uncomfortable time."
Bottoms also wrote a letter to City Council in April announcing efforts to create a dedicated open records website. The website will include compliance training materials, FAQs, city record retention schedules and a link to the Georgia Attorney Generals' Office website, among other resources.
In addition to the website, Bottoms said she will implement a Citywide Open Records Compliance Policy and a City Open Records Response Protocol, which includes a checklist for employees to follow when responding to public records requests.