Atlanta city councilwoman and community activist Cleta Winslow paid homeless people less than minimum wage to work on her campaign — and the checks were cut from tax coffers.
WSB-Channel 2 News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed the scheme.
Last year, the incumbent Winslow’s election opponent, Torry Lewis, recorded two homeless people on cell phone video doing clean-up work in Winslow’s district.
They were wearing Winslow campaign t-shirts while also passing out campaign fliers for Winslow’s re-election.
Winslow allegedly used the t-shirts as a sort of uniform for her homeless employees.
“She said, ‘Once I give you this shirt you’ll be part of my campaign and you’ll be working for me,’” another homeless person, Samantha DeLoach, told WSB-Channel 2.
WSB-Channel 2 and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution used open records requests to obtain financial records of Winslow’s spending. The records showed that Winslow used taxpayer funds to pay six homeless people.
In August, September, and October of 2012 she paid the workers $280 over 10 separate days, the records show.
During her 2013 campaign for re-election, which she won, Winslow paid $1,534 over 31 days.
One of the homeless men recorded by Lewis was heard saying on the video “I’m getting $5 an hour right here.”
“Because someone’s homeless doesn’t mean they’re worth less than the national government says you need to pay somebody,” Lewis told Channel 2. “Taking advantage of somebody’s situation for your own personal good, it’s degrading to them and it’s illegal.”
The kicker, said DeLoach, who has been homeless for three years, was that Winslow didn’t even let her keep the t-shirt she had been given before she started working for the politician, whose bio at the City of Atlanta website touts her community activism and involvement in other progressive causes.
“That was like taking advantage of us, making us feel down and low and worthless,” DeLoach told WSB-Channel 2. “I’m in a bad situation as it is, I don’t need the low self-esteem.”
Winslow, who was first elected in 1993, has not been a model of civic virtue during her time in Atlanta city politics.
Last year, she was arrested for a DUI.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported last year that Winslow was fined $2,000 for reimbursement she received from the city of Atlanta for money she spent to bus seniors to a campaign event. And in 2010, she was fined $1,500 for spending more than $5,000 in tax money in her re-election campaign.