Fulton commissioners shelve development authority nominee

Fulton County commissioners avoided a vote on the re-appointment of a member to its development authority board on technical grounds Wednesday, shelving the nomination after reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News showed tens of thousands of dollars in questionable per diem spending at the agency. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

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Fulton County commissioners avoided a vote on the re-appointment of a member to its development authority board on technical grounds Wednesday, shelving the nomination after reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News showed tens of thousands of dollars in questionable per diem spending at the agency. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Move follows AJC/WSB report on questionable per diem spending.

Fulton County commissioners avoided a vote on the re-appointment of a member to its development authority on technical grounds Wednesday, shelving the nomination after reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News showed tens of thousands of dollars in questionable per diem spending at the agency.

Commissioners tabled the nomination of Bob Shaw to the Development Authority of Fulton County board without discussion. The authority is empowered to grant tax breaks and other incentives to developers.

On Tuesday, the AJC and Channel 2 reported Shaw was paid nearly $91,000 in per diems since January 2019, with records showing at times he collected multiple $200 fees on the same day and thousands just for signing documents.

Commissioner Lee Morris, who nominated Shaw, said the per diem stories raised concerns about authority procedures and compensation. But Morris said he held the nomination because “it’s not clear that the position is open.”

The meeting agenda suggested DAFC board member Tom Tidwell had resigned with about two years remaining on his term, and Shaw had been nominated to take his place.

Attempts to reach Tidwell to verify his status on the authority board were not immediately successful. Shaw did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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Bob Shaw, seen here in a recent specially called Zoom meeting, is the former chairman of the Development Authority of Fulton County.

Bob Shaw, seen here in a recent specially called Zoom meeting, is the former chairman of the Development Authority of Fulton County.

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Bob Shaw, seen here in a recent specially called Zoom meeting, is the former chairman of the Development Authority of Fulton County.

Shaw’s term on the board expired on Monday. He will remain on the board in his current seat on an expired term until a successor is appointed.

On Tuesday, the AJC and Channel 2 reported that DAFC board members collected nearly $300,000 in per diem fees since January 2019. DAFC and development authorities in Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties are allowed by law to pay per diems to reimburse board members for their time, but Fulton is the only one that does.

For years, DAFC paid per diems to its appointed directors without a written policy.

Several citizens spoke against Shaw’s nomination and the per diem spending during Wednesday’s period for public comment. Others wrote commissioners chastising DAFC’s big tax breaks for developers, alleging they trigger gentrification.

Julian Bene, former board member of the city’s development authority, Invest Atlanta, is challenging four tax break deals in court. He provided the AJC and Channel 2 DAFC records that revealed the per diem collected by board members.

“There’s a huge conflict of interest when board members are able to pay themselves,” he said. “The public is outraged.”

Bene presented commissioners with 11 steps to reform the authority, including stricter ethics disclosures, ending per diems and enacting rules reining in tax breaks. Bene also called on DAFC not to grant tax breaks in the city of Atlanta as the City Council and Atlanta Public Schools have demanded.

Morris also sits on the board of Invest Atlanta. He said he thinks it’d be a good idea for the county authority board members to be subject to the same financial disclosures he faces on the city board.

Morris said he has asked the county’s legal department for advice about the per diems.