We billed this city: $1,825 for pizza and other curious findings from Atlanta’s new spending transparency database

A quick look at Atlanta City Hall's $2.12 billion expenditures

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Atlanta city spending

Illustration by Brian Paul Nelson

When the Federal Bureau of Investigation began probing City of Atlanta officials after concerns of bribery schemes, local leaders and residents called for more transparency surrounding how City Hall officials spend hundreds of millions of public dollars each year. In September, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms created Open Checkbook, an online tool—unfortunately named in light of the corruption scandal—that allows the public to monitor more than $2 billion in city spending between July 2016 until July 2018. Updated quarterly, Open Checkbook also allows anyone with free time and curiosity to find some interesting, weird, or downright questionable expenses. Here are some we discovered:

$1,825

amount the watershed department paid to Papa John’s for Employee Appreciation Day

$2,500

laundry bill—paid by the aviation department—for the “rush dry cleaning” of an Atlanta Falcons flag

104,672

total number of transactions

$44,000

amount the Atlanta Police Department paid to two animal hospitals for K9 police veterinary services (billed to the “Red Dog Unit,” a paramilitary division disbanded in 2011)

$317,815

amount paid out to city officials and employees for “mileage” or “mileage reimbursement”

$500,000

approximate amount several city departments paid, over 431 separate transactions, to Red Wing Shoes, a preferred vendor for construction and maintenance boots

$650,000

amount paid to Atlanta cybersecurity firm Secureworks after hackers paralyzed the city in 2018

$2.4 million

amount spent by City Hall on postage and related expenses

Top spender: $1 billion

amount spent by the Department of Watershed, which makes sure taps don’t run dry and leads the $1 billion plan to retrofit Atlanta’s antiquated sewer system

2nd biggest spender: $864.2 million

amount spent by the Department of Aviation, which oversees Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

Highest-paid vendor: $214.4 million

amount paid to PC/Russell, a joint venture that works on the city’s water system repairs

Show your receipts: $30,000+

amount billed by Councilwoman Cleta Winslow, on top of her $60,000 salary, for unspecified reimbursements. Winslow did not respond to Atlanta’s questions about the expenses.

Grand total: $2.12 billion

approximate amount spent by City Hall between July 2016 and July 2018

This article appears in our March 2019 issue.

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