Fulton Chair John Eaves removes Commissioner Joan Garner from Recreation Authority boardA group of residents near Turner Field are calling for Georgia State University to create a formal office to develop relations between residents and the school during the redevelopment of the ballpark and surrounding area. File/Credit: Maria Saporta
By Maria Saporta
The fallout over the selection of Keisha Lance Bottoms as executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority continues.
Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves is removing Commissioner Joan Garner as one of the county’s three representatives to the nine-member board.
“I asked her to resign,” Eaves wrote in an email Friday evening. “I am nominating Commissioner Bob Ellis.”
Although he didn’t elaborate in his email, Eaves previously has voiced his displeasure with the way that the Authority met at a specially-called meeting on Tuesday April 14 on personnel matters in an executive session.
During that meeting, the board members who were present voted unanimously to part ways with Violet Travis Ricks, who has been executive director of the Authority for more than a decade.
And then without a search or a job interview process, the Authority voted unanimously to name current Atlanta City Councilwoman Bottoms to the position. Bottoms intends to stay in her City Council post, which pays $60,300 a year, and work full-time for the Authority, a position that pays $135,000.
Garner was present at that meeting, and it is presumed that she went along with the rest of the board as did the county’s citizen representative Linda Jordan.
The third county representative – Marvin Arrington Jr. – did not attend the specially-called meeting.
In an email sent on April 19 and again on April 21, Garner was asked numerous questions about the meeting, about her vote and about whether she had any concerns in the way the city was exerting its control on the board at the expense of the county.
Garner did not respond to either email. Then on Friday, Fulton County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, sent the following email:
“I apologize for the delay in getting back with you but wanted to let you know that Commissioner Joan Garner is no longer a member of the Recreation Authority Board.”
No matter what, Fulton County still will have only three members on the Authority’s board compared to the City of Atlanta’s six member. But Eaves is exploring whether Fulton County has any avenues to formally object to naming of Bottoms to that position.
The next couple of years are considered to be pivotal ones for the Authority. It will have to determine how to proceed with the redevelopment of Turner Field once the Atlanta Braves abandon the City of Atlanta for Cobb County. It also will be overseeing any kind of proposed enhancements to Philips Arena – especially because the Atlanta Hawks are in the process of getting a new owner.
Lastly, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has made a commitment to Zoo Atlanta that it will build a parking structure as part of the attraction’s expansion plans. The parking deck, which is supposed to built into a hill on the site of an existing surface parking lot likely would end up being a project coordinated by the Recreation Authority.
Removing Joan Garner may be one sign that Chairman Eaves does not intend to sit idly by while the city is making these decisions unilaterally.