Saturday, January 16, 2021

Former Atlanta Watershed Commissioner indicted on bribery allegations

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Jo Ann Macrina, the former City of Atlanta Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management, has been indicted on multiple charges for allegedly taking bribes from a county contractor between 2014-16.

Macrina, 63, is charged with one count each of conspiratorial bribery, bribery, and tax evasion in connection with money and other items she allegedly accepted from ex-City of Atlanta and DeKalb County contractor Lohrasb “Jeff” Jafari, who was charged in March 2019 with a 51-count indictment. On June 16, a grand jury again indicted Jafari on two new charges relating to payments to Macrina.

Federal prosecutors allege Macrina helped Jafari’s PRAD Group Inc., an Atlanta-based architectural, design, and construction management and services firm, win an $11 million design contract despite the firm scoring at the bottom of the rankings. She allegedly received $10,000 in cash, jewelry, a room at a luxury hotel in Dubai, and landscaping work at her home.

The allegations also involve former City Procurement Officer Adam Smith, who was sent to federal prison for two years and three months in 2018 for conspiring to accept more than $40,000 in bribe payments.

Among the allegations are that Macrina re-conducted interviews to alter final scores on the 2016 project and replaced evaluators who previously represented the Department with herself and another individual.

After being fired on May 20, 2016, Macrina started working for Jafari and PRAD Group. PRAD paid her $30,000 but she didn’t report any of the money on her income tax return, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Macrina allegedly decided that accepting bribes from Jafari was more important than following the rules established for contracting by the City of Atlanta – and thereby betrayed the public’s trust,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “In exchange for those bribe payments, Macrina manipulated the evaluation process to direct work to Jafari’s firm.”

“Circumventing the process to hire contractors for the city by accepting bribes to profit personally is the highest form of public corruption,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “It is extremely disturbing when the person alleged to have accepted bribes is the head of a department. Our public corruption squad is determined to hold those serving the public in positions of trust accountable.”

At least 10 former city employees or contractors have been charged in the City Hall corruption investigation dating back to January 2017. The list includes Smith; Mitzi Bickers, who served as Atlanta’s director of human services; Katrina Taylor-Parks, who served as then-Mayor Kasim Reed’s deputy chef of staff; Atlanta construction company executives Elvin “E.R.” Mitchell Jr. and Charles P. Richards Jr.; Marc Hannon-White, a former Atlanta Regional Commission employee; Hayat Choudhary, CEO of Atlanta Airport Shuttle Services Inc., and Jafari.

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