Chambers threatens MARTA board members over lobbyist vote
MARTA board members who vote to hire a $160,000-a-year lobbying firm could lose their seats come 2010. So says state Rep. Jill Chambers, the transit agency’s chief nemesis in the Georgia Legislature.
On Tuesday, the board will consider a staff recommendation to hire The Williams Consulting Group to promote MARTA’s agenda in the 2010 legislative session, particularly its bid for more leeway in spending proceeds of its 1 percent sales tax. The contract would pay $160,000 for one year, with two one-year options for renewal.
That’s way too expensive for Chambers, who chairs the Legislature’s MARTA Oversight Committee. She fired off this e-mail Saturday to MARTA board members:
The MARTA board is expected to vote to approve the hiring of a contract lobbyist for aprox $400K+.
I hope I have made it clear to the Authority that I feel this is a waste of taxpayers money – MARTA already has two staff lobbyists and the firm of Holland & Knight to represent them in government issues.
The Board Governance Sub-committee of MARTOC will examine the votes for the Ethics changes and the contract lobbyist issue.
Should either of these two issues come before the Board, those members who vote in agreement to these staff proposals may see their Board seats eliminated with any future restructuring of the MARTA Act.
MARTOC is mandated by the State of Georgia to examine the financial workings of the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. MARTOC is a joint committee of the State House and State Senate.
Chambers’ e-mail bomb definitely struck a chord at MARTA headquarters.
“I think it’s outrageous,” board chairman Michael Walls said Sunday. “We have the same right to access that everybody else has … and that should include the right to seek access without having a legislator threaten Board members for doing so. “
General Manager Beverly Scott, in a prepared statement, said the stakes have never been higher for MARTA as it seeks the financial help in 2010 that lawmakers denied in 2009:
Notwithstanding our best efforts, MARTA was totally unsuccessful in advancing its case for funding flexibility (over the use of its own dollars) and the need for State transit funding. If it had not been for the use of millions in “one-time” federal stimulus funding, the Authority would have suffered major service cutbacks this year. Next year, with the loss of those federal stimulus funds, MARTA will face a funding crisis of truly devastating proportions.
Read Scott’s full statement here.