Complaints accuse MARTA board of open meeting violations

MARTA’s Board of Directors has 10 days to respond to a series of complaints regarding access to meetings and votes on issues that weren’t listed in advance on the agenda.

Paula Nash, MARTA's active chief general counsel, received a letter from the office of Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr on Thursday. She has 10 days to respond to a series of accusations found in two separate complaints.

“MARTA is reviewing the complaints but maintains that its actions were in full compliance with the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Act,” it said in a statement.

Most of the allegations are found in an Aug. 3 letter signed by three Decatur residents.

They complain that the MARTA Board of Directors added three items to the agenda during a June 22 meeting in violation of open meeting laws. Two of these “walk-on items” regarded waiving ethics rules to allow former employees to take jobs with MARTA contractors within a year of leaving the agency. The third item was a settlement of a lawsuit against the agency.

That is the same meeting where the MARTA board amended its budget to retain a $1 fare for the Atlanta Streetcar. The public should have been told about that change in advance and a public hearing should have been held, the letter said.

MARTA is also criticized for holding public comment at the end of that meeting although the agenda indicated it would take place at the beginning and before any votes were taken.

Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo’s letter also references a separate complaint from a journalist who accused the MARTA board of holding its Aug. 2 meeting in a room that could not accommodate the members of the public and media who were there even though a larger space was available.

Colangelo asked Nash to respond to the allegations as part of a mediation program to resolve disputes between residents and government agencies regarding open records and open meeting laws.

Colangelo wrote a similar letter to DeKalb County after Ed Williams complained about Board of Commissioners members' surprise vote to raise their base salary by 60 percent. After receiving the county's response, the attorney general determined that a violation of open meeting laws had occurred.

Williams was one of the three residents who signed the Aug. 3 letter about MARTA.

>Read the Attorney General's office letter to MARTA: