Mitzi Bickers leaves the Richard B. Russell federal courthouse in Atlanta, Sept. 8, 2022. She was sentenced to 14 years in prison for her role in the Atlanta City Hall contract bribery scandal. She will wear an ankle monitor and is on house arrest until she reports to prison. Her attorneys say they will appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit. Credit: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent

Political associates face rough waters

Clayton County’s most notorious political fixer, Mitzi Bickers, reported to federal prison on Election Day.

Bickers turned herself in and is now housed at FCI Marianna in Florida. She is serving a 14-year sentence after a jury convicted her on nine of 12 corruption counts related to the Atlanta City Hall contract-rigging scandal. Her case is on appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit.

Several of Bickers’ clients, who used her services through her partner Keyla Jackson’s Pirouette Companies, won reelection yesterday after running unopposed for seats in the Georgia Assembly, Clayton County Board of Education, and Clayton County Board of Commissioners. During Bickers’ trial, evidence and testimony showed that Bickers had a history of encouraging her romantic partners to open businesses in the partner’s name, then using those businesses to deposit and withdraw bribe money. Pirouette was one of those companies.

When Bickers failed to reveal her lucrative political consulting income on her City of Atlanta employee financial disclosure, she was forced to resign. She turned to Sheriff Victor Hill, where she got a corrections officer job and became a chaplain. Soon, Hill made her chief chaplain, then chief of staff, where sources claim she ran CCSO behind the scenes.

Bickers also ran campaigns for Hill, who was convicted in a separate case of violating the rights of six pretrial detainees under color of law. Hill was acquitted of a seventh charge and is scheduled for sentencing in February 2023.

How Bickers’ and Hill’s convictions will impact Clayton County politics remains to be seen. Federal authorities are reportedly keeping a close eye on several players in Bickers’ orbit. In addition, several lawsuits have been filed against Commissioners Felicia Franklin and Alieka Anderson, who have received funds from Hill and hired Pirouette for their campaigns.

E-mail mobbing leads to lawsuits

Anderson, who ran unopposed for Commission District 1, and Franklin are being sued separately by Brandon Turner for slander in Clayton County.

Former Chief Financial Officer Ramona Bivins is suing Anderson, Franklin, and District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick in federal court over Bivins’ summary dismissal soon after her husband had campaigned for District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis. Hill, Anderson, and Franklin had campaigned for Davis’ opponent, Janice Scott, another Pirouette customer who also received a campaign donation from Hill. Bivins alleges the three violated her First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. She also is suing the county for breach of contract.

Campaign finance disclosure documents show Hill, Franklin, and Pirouette are linked by a fake address in southwest Atlanta.

Lake Spivey at the fore

Pirouette also is linked to a series of events at the Lake Spivey Golf Club, owned through a series of companies by C. Harrison Braddy, who told The Clayton Crescent at Bickers’ sentencing that he was acting as Bickers’ spiritual advisor. After her sentencing, Bickers was seen working at the club, where Anderson recently announced a million-dollar golf tournament to benefit law enforcement and first responders.

In a county-produced video of a press conference Anderson called to announce the event, one of Hill’s command staff, Maj. Brandon Criss, represents the sheriff’s department, although he is not head of that department. Criss is one of three deputies Hill assigned to serve as bodyguards to Anderson, Franklin, and Hambrick during BOC meetings. Criss appeared alongside Clayton County Police Chief Kevin Roberts and Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Landry Merkison, recently also appointed to the county’s newly-created Chief of Staff position:

Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Maj. Brandon Criss (second from left) appeared at a press conference for a golf tournament sponsored by District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson. The tournament will be held at the Lake Spivey Golf Course, owned by C. Harrison Braddy, and is being promoted as a million-dollar benefit for law enforcement and first responders. Criss is not CCSO’s department head but appears alongside Clayton County Police Chief Kevin Roberts (left) and Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Chief and Clayton County Chief of Staff Landry Merkison (right). Anderson is a target of two lawsuits related to e-mails linked to the Bickers political machine. (Image: Clayton County)

Criss wrote a letter on behalf of Bickers to U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones, requesting leniency in Bickers’ sentencing. Criss did not disclose that he worked at CCSO and that Bickers outranked him as chief of staff, even though she was not a sworn law enforcement officer.

Franklin also wrote a letter on Bickers’ behalf, stating that she had worked with Bickers “over the past several years,” that she had done “an extensive inquiry among previous clients and associates regarding her reputation and work ethic,” and that Bickers “has also been a sound counsel to me, as I have worked to navigate through this extremely difficult public servant environment.”

Chain of command

The day Hill was sentenced, Chief Deputy and Interim Sheriff Roland Boehrer issued a memo stating that he would continue as interim sheriff, but that Hill’s godson, Levon Allen, would assume the position of chief deputy. That puts Allen in line to assume the interim sheriff’s position once Boehrer retires, pending a special election for a new sheriff.

Hill filed for retirement last week, with both Georgia POST and the Georgia Sheriff’s Association looking into his record. POST could revoke Hill’s law enforcement status permanently and the sheriff’s association must decide whether Hill is entitled to a small monthly pension. Hill’s usually bombastic social media presence has quietly disappeared.

With Bickers in prison and Hill likely to serve time behind bars, the impact on Bickers’ county machine is yet to be seen. Either or both could continue to direct their foot soldiers to do their political bidding. Meanwhile, several of Hill’s critics are lining up to run for sheriff.

The county has been in touch with Gov. Brian Kemp’s chief of staff about next steps in calling a special election. However, Kemp’s office had not given the county a definitive answer before the November 8 election. We will update with any new developments.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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