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.