Atlanta BeltLine CEO Ousted

The AJC reports Brian Leary, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. CEO, has been removed from the organization effective the end of the month. The first article highlighting the open record records on ABI expenses was an above-the-fold front page story a couple of Saturday’s before the T-SPLOST vote.  Follow-up headlines further damaged the reputation and trust of Leary and the organization’s repeatedly questionable expenses.

The newspaper’s review found that taxpayers paid the tab for Leary’s parking ticket, his dry cleaning bill and a $106.22 wedding gift from Pottery Barn for his fiancee. It also highlighted other expenses, such as a $2,100 taxpayer-funded bill for food at a Braves game.

The BeltLine also said Leary charged taxpayers for a $71 bottle of champagne he bought as a wedding gift for a staffer while at a South Pacific resort, as well as about $500 in booze charges while on trips in Seattle, Charlotte and Washington.

In recent months, metro Atlanta citizens have made it abundantly clear they are fed up with misuse of taxpayer dollars. It is apparent, the hands of the ABI board were tied and removing Leary was the only option on the table.

Many will ask what does this mean for the future of the BeltLine. Mayor Kasim Reed has made it clear this is a priority project for his administration. He fervently advocated for it during the T-SPLOST election and I suspect he will continue to do so. Regardless of this public embarrassment for the organization, the work of the Atlanta BeltLine is vital for the growth of the city.

Kudos to Mayor Reed and the ABI board for doing the right thing and sending a clear message –we don’t take your trust lightly– to the supporters and critics of the BeltLine. I sincerely wish Leary all the best. His graduate thesis began the process for making Atlantic Station  a reality and he gave credibility to the Atlanta BeltLine for many in the business community.

With Leary gone, COO Lisa Gordon will step in as interim CEO. I expect the ABI board, Invest Atlanta and Mayor Reed to have a hands-on approach for the next 12 months.


  1. Hosea says:

    Kudos to Mayor Reed and ABI? They were asleep at the wheel while all of this was going on. What policies were in place for credit card purchases in the first place? Isn’t it the board responsibility to make those policies?

    • wicker says:

      ABI is a private entity, a 501(c)(3), that is separate from the Atlanta government. So this is an instance of private sector corruption, not government malfeasance. The city was able to authorize the audit because the ABI receives city dollars. But the relationship between ABI and the city is no different from that between the government and defense contractors. By the way, a similar audit of the many billions of taxpayer money for Iraqi reconstruction work that was either done shoddily or never done at all would be nice, but don’t hold your breath waiting on it to happen. The reason is that the same anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-big government TEA Party types who believe that $300 million to fund the Beltline represents the very worst impulses of corrupt, wasteful big government are totally uninterested in how 1000 times that much was handed out in no bid contracts to companies that were contributors or had other business and personal ties to the Bush administration.

  2. MouthoftheSouth says:

    Well, that’s not really a board level function. The gatekeeper for internal rules should have been the General Counsel – but then she was running up thousand dollar hotel bills for what essentially was a vacation.

    • Hosea says:

      Since when was ethics not a board level function? Personal expenses on company credit cards should be an ethics violation.

      • Stefan says:

        Ah, I see your point. Let me clarify: Ethics is certainly in the board’s purview – however, minutia such as outlining what are proper company expenses versus personal is generally the job of the General Counsel and then put into place by Human Resources. That said, this entire corporation has like 10 people who work there, so its on the General Counsel – its not like they have a comptroller and an entire accounting department.

        • Stefan says:

          And they should make Angel Poventud a board member. He’s already the mayor of it on FourSquare. He knows more about the Beltline from an at-grade perspective than anyone. His tours of the Beltline on Saturday morning are attended by more than 100 people. And these are walking tours, not the bus ones that ABI does.

  3. Baker says:

    Now let’s get down to business and start making this thing usable.

    Whatever land they do own, just get a weed-eater down there and cut it. You don’t have to make it immaculate, better to be able to use than have it sit there closed off for forever while we wait on a perfectly completed, paved trail. Anyone else thought this? I’d rather have much longer pieces of primitive trail available than waiting for them to be basically pave a road on it.

    • zedsmith says:

      all the land they do own is currently open to use (the southwest trail, the northside trail) or an active construction site closed to use for reasons of law and liability (the eastside trail). CSX owns and maintains the SE section, and norfolk southern (?) owns the northwest.

      I don’t really understand the frustration— the eastside that’s currently under construction was available for illicit hiking for years in the state you are asking for.

  4. saltycracker says:

    The devil is in the details. Did the $195K contrct plus bonuses have a “morals” or with cause stipulation that won’t make it a lucrative exit for Leary ?

  5. wicker says:

    The sad thing is that the suburban Republican contingent can’t make the hay that they would otherwise want to over this issue because they have (even bigger and more harmful) ethics issues of their own.

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