MARTA chief defends using consultant

MARTA Chairman Fred Daniels fired back at a state legislator Tuesday and defended spending $144,000 on a consultant to improve the “productivity” of the transit authority’s executive management.

He said the public should be confident that the tax money was well spent on the 13-month study of General Manager Beverly Scott’s leadership of the executive staff. The board commissioned the consultant, The Business Psychology Co. of Marietta, two years ago to recommend ways to help Scott and the executive staff perform better after receiving complaints about her management.

“This board and members of the MARTA staff are committed to providing the best transit service that’s humanly possible under extremely difficult circumstances,” Daniels said. “For that reason, we took the extraordinary, but necessary, step of hiring a management consultant two years ago to work with MARTA’s executive management team to foster trust, to enhance communications, to build stronger relationships and to improve our effectiveness.”

He added, “Those are the ideals that any good company aspires to and that MARTA makes no apologies for.”

The MARTA chairman was short on specifics about how Scott’s performance improved after the hiring of The Business Psychology Co. and its minority partner, Optimism Matters, other than to say her communication improved and meetings became more productive. He said Scott evaluated whether her executive staff improved after the evaluation.

Daniels initially said the consulting group documented its findings and recommendations, but a MARTA spokesman later said the chairman had misspoke and no documents exist.

Scott is leaving MARTA after her five-year contract ends this year. She recently took a job to head the transit system in Boston. On Tuesday her replacement, Keith Parker, announced he would leave his post as chief of the San Antonio transit system within 60 days, according to KSAT.com

Daniels criticized Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Atlanta, who oversees the legislative committee that monitors MARTA, for raising concerns in the media about whether the board violated the state Open Meetings Act in its search for a new general manager.

“We recognize that the MARTOC Committee provides a valuable and legitimate oversight function,” Daniels said. “But they do not run MARTA. If MARTOC Chair Mike Jacobs wishes to communicate with us, he doesn’t need to go to the media or to the Attorney General’s Office. He is always welcome to contact us directly.”

Jacobs asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether the board violated the law after acquiring an email in which a board member solicited votes on the finalist for the position. Daniels said the board had already contacted the Attorney General Office at the request of board members before Jacobs made his complaint.

Jacobs said Daniels’ criticism was misplaced. Voting is supposed to be done in public, he said.

“It is not my job to help the MARTA board sweep its open meeting violations under the rug,” Jacobs said.

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