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McManus and the election
Reid says he met Vertis McManus, vice president of Spectronics Corp., in early spring 1997, at the recommendation of then-Deputy Chief of Staff and current Campbell spokeswoman Glenda Blum Minkin. McManus had been a contributor to Campbell's 1993 campaign and "needed help with special projects" he wanted to do with the city, according to Reid.
McManus spent money freely and had connections with powerful political figures. The relationship between McManus and Reid became more complex than your typical city official-vendor relationship, and Reid says the executive wooed him. McManus quickly took him into his confidence and sought to impress Reid with his close ties to the Campbell administration and prominent figures such as Jesse Jackson, and the scope of his business, which included ventures in Louisville, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., Jamaica and Liberia. The pair developed something of a friendship, and it was through McManus that Reid met his wife-to-be in the fall of 1997.
During this same period, McManus and his partner, Spectronics CEO Dorothy Rollins, also began donating thousands of dollars to the Campbell campaign.
"I became aware that Vertis could be called upon by the mayor's office to give considerable funds ...," Reid saysin a written recollection. When there was a fund-raising party, they were invited.
According to McManus' federal grand jury indictment, the pair could indeed be counted on for cash. The feds allege that McManus and Rollins contributed at least $25,000 to Campbell's campaign, making the donations under the names of six Spectronics' employees and five of Campbell's relatives. Each time, Rollins cashed checks -- from a personal account and from Spectronics -- to make the contributions, the indictments indicate. Chief Operating Officer Larry Wallace allegedly provided Reid with the names of Campbell's relatives, which he turned over to Rollins.
But the money didn't come without strings. In 1999, Spectronics received a $103,590 "re-seller fee" from the city as part of a contract for financial software with the Oracle Corp. It's unclear that Spectronics ever did any work to merit the payment. Federal prosecutors also will seek to prove that McManus used the allegedly dirty donations and his relationship with Reid to convince the city to coerce MediaOne -- then the city's cable TV provider -- to settle a dispute between the two companies. Spectronics and MediaOne later settled the dispute "on or about Oct. 6, 1997," according to the indictments. Reid says the settlement netted Spectronics more than $1 million.
McManus admitted in federal court in 1998, to using similar tactics in a contract with a Louisville company, according to published reports. In that case, McManus paid $56,000 to a member of the city's Board of Aldermen, while the company with which Spectronics had a dispute was in contract negotiations with the city. The alderman, Paul Bather, was later censured.
But fund-raising aid wasn't the only way McManus was trying to buy Reid's influence.
"I was uniquely aware that I could go to Vertis or Dorothy and get cash money if needed," Reid says in a written recollection. "They both indicated to me, together and in private, that they would help me if needed in any way they could."
In September 1997, Reid needed help. Surrounded by people with political and financial power far greater than his own and millions of dollars in contracts that seemed to have more to do with who people knew in Atlanta government than the merits of the companies, it's not surprising that Reid was living beyond his means at the Grand Condominium Apartments on 14th Street. At the same time, he was busy paying off college loans and supporting his then-girlfriend and her two adopted children.
McManus and Rollins allegedly came up with a plan Reid says assuaged his guilt about any potential conflict of interest. McManus set up a contract with Strong Day, an Athens treatment center Reid established, and paid $19,500 to the facility. Richard Williams, the president of Strong Day's board of directors, then turned the money over to Reid in a series of checks written in late 1997 and early 1998, copies of which have been obtained by CL.
Reid rationalized taking the money under the premise that it was payment due him for the volunteer work he did establishing Strong Day. His friendship with McManus fueled the rationalization.
Reid now says that the gambit made the payments look like an elaborate scheme to accept a bribe, and in the end, its paper trail would make his prosecution by the feds a slam dunk.
"In reality ... my true intention was to receive money to address my own needs," Reid says.
It's more than a bit of a stretch, though, to think McManus could have purchased Reid's undying loyalty and influence within City Hall for $19,500. Reid says. The more powerful promise was future employment.
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