MARTA eyes policy on employees who go to work for contractors

MARTA may revise an ethics policy designed to discourage employees from going to work for companies that do business with the transit agency. (Jenni Girtman for Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
MARTA may revise an ethics policy designed to discourage employees from going to work for companies that do business with the transit agency. (Jenni Girtman for Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

MARTA may revise an ethics policy designed to discourage employees from going to work for companies that do business with the transit agency.

The current policy generally prohibits MARTA from doing business with companies represented by anyone employed by MARTA within the last 12 months. But it allows the MARTA Board of Directors to waive the policy in some circumstances – for example, if former employees were not involved with MARTA contracts of their new employers.

Now the agency is considering a more detailed policy that would spell out which former employees would be subject to the 12-month restriction. Chief Counsel Elizabeth O’Neill told the MARTA Board last week that clearer guidelines would “completely eliminate the need for any waivers” from the ethics policy.

“There has been some discomfort with the idea that we have a code, but we grant waivers,” she said. “This more clearly defines what we would consider conflicts (of interest) and avoid the necessity of waivers having to be granted.”

MARTA awards hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts each year. Its ethics policy is designed to ensure that companies don’t hire MARTA employees in an effort to win those contracts, and that employees don’t steer contracts to companies with an eye toward getting jobs with them later.

The proposed new policy would take account of an employees' job at MARTA. For example, an employee involved in procurement of contracts could not go to work for a MARTA contractor for one year after leaving the agency. And the employees would be prohibited from ever working on a contract they had been directly involved with at MARTA.

The proposed policy also would prohibit companies that did business with MARTA from using any former agency employee on a MARTA contract for one year. For employees laid off by MARTA, the prohibition would be reduced to six months.

Companies that violate the policy could lose their MARTA contracts.

O’Neill told the board the revisions would acknowledge that some employees are more heavily involved in procurement than others.

The policy will be vetted by a board committee before coming back to the full body for final approval.

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