Former state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, a Republican who represented parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs for 16 years, has been named to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ new ethics and transparency task force.

Wilkinson, who once chaired the House Ethics Committee, was among five people Bottoms named to the new Task Force for the Promotion of Public Trust, pending City Council approval.

Former state Rep. Joe Wilkinson.

During his time as chair, Wilkinson drew controversy for comments likening claims of ethics problems in the state legislature to the Easter Bunny and later declined to release an internal report about government transparency, citing the body’s exemption from the Open Records Act. However, he oversaw an ethics reform process, saying it would correct “misperceptions.”

Wilkinson is a retired Coca-Cola executive; formerly worked in the White House Press Office under Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan; and held commands in the U.S. Navy Reserve. As a state representative, he authored the legislation that led to the landmark incorporation of the city of Sandy Springs in 2005. He retired from the House District 52 seat in 2016 and was replaced by current incumbent Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs). Afterward, he joined a film production company that made the 2018 animated feature “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” about a real-life World War I military dog.

Bottoms is forming the task force in the wake of a bribery and corruption scandal involving officials in the administration of former Mayor Kasim Reed. Other members she named April 4 include former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears; former federal prosecutor Joe D. Whitley; O.V. Brantley, a former attorney for DeKalb and Fulton counties; Dr. Robert M. Franklin Jr., an ethics professor at Emory University and former Morehouse College president; and Lawton Jordan, former chair of the state ethics commission.

“This administration operates on the cornerstones of honor, accountability and transparency—Atlanta deserves nothing less,” said Bottoms in a press release. “My appointments to this task force reflect the gravity of their undertaking and I commend each of them for stepping up to better the city and strengthen public trust with the residents we are entrusted to serve.”

The 13-member task force will conduct its first meeting within two weeks of the appointment of all members, according to the press release, and recommend “meaningful reforms in the areas of ethics, transparency and compliance” within four months. The task force will then disband.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.