By Stephen Deere, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga (CNT) City News And Talk
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Friday announced new appointments to the highest levels of her administration — including new leadership in two departments that have been scrutinized in the federal corruption investigation of City Hall.
Martin Han Clarke III, a long-time attorney for the city’s law department who focused on airport issues, became the city’s Chief Procurement Officer, responsible for overseeing the department that makes recommendations on the award of tens of millions of dollars in contracts every year.
The procurement department was a central issue in the 2017 mayoral race, with Bottoms and her opponent Mary Norwood both promising a complete makeover after it became clear federal investigators were looking at contract awards as part of the probe.
Clarke is the third person to hold that position since 2017, when former chief procurement officer Adam Smith pled guilty to bribery charges and was sentenced to prison. Clarke previously led the city’s Department of Contract Compliance.
Bottoms also named a new leader for the city’s largest department, Watershed.
Mikita Browning, who joined the city in 2011 and has been interim commissioner since April, takes permanent control over an agency responsible for delivering water to more than 1.2 million customers in a handful of cities, including Atlanta, Sandy Springs and College Park.
Watershed has 1,382 full-time employees, and an annual budget of $600 million. The department has been historically troubled, with issues of theft and mismanagement. In June, former Watershed Commissioner Jo Ann Macrina was indicted on bribery charges as part of the federal investigation.
Bottoms third hire is at the top of the organizational chart, to whom Clarke, Browning and the city’s other department heads will report.
Jon Keen was named the city’s interim Chief Operating Officer.
Current COO Joshua Williams announced last week that he will resign effective Dec. 1. Keen joined the city in 2018 as Williams’ deputy. He had previously worked as a manager for Deloitte Consulting and IBM Global Services, and was as a Major in the United States Army.
The mayor’s office said in a press release that Keen led the city’s administration of federal CARES Act funding.
Councilman Matt Westmoreland said all three hires are critical to city operations. Watershed has significant stormwater flooding issues to fix, and the procurement chief is essential to ensuring ethical and transparent government, the councilman said.
“The COO has the responsibility of running the city day to day and overseeing 8,000 employees,” Westmoreland said.
A spokesman for Bottoms said the mayor wanted to have both a current and interim COO “to ensure a smooth and orderly transition of oversight of city operations.”
Bottoms said in a prepared statement that all three managers “have demonstrated their ability to push forward our Administration’s vision and priorities.”
“Their steady leadership has been key to ensuring services have continued without interruption to residents and businesses during the most devastating health crisis of our lifetime,” Bottoms said.