Well-known Atlanta journalist and creator of The Saporta Report, Maria Saporta, is calling out State Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) for being “inappropriate” in his role as chairman of the state MARTA Oversight Committee, accusing him of being vindictive and working at “cross purposes against his district and ... MARTA.”
Responding to Saporta’s accusation that Jacobs is overstepping his role as MARTOC chairman, Jacobs said, “If MARTA is not in agreement with work of their legislative oversight committee, we must be doing something right.”
The transit authority faces a $33 million deficit and has made recent headlines for spending $144,000 for a consultant to improve and study executive leadership, along with nearly $800 for the consultant to present his findings orally in a rented room five miles from its six-story facility, during a December 2011 retreat.
Jacobs is addressing the transit authority's spending in a special legislative hearing.
Saporta in a Monday column criticized Jacobs’ public support for MARTA Chief Operating Officer Dwight Ferrell to be named as MARTA’s new general manager, a position left vacant now that former General Manager Beverly Scott has accepted a position in Boston.
Saporta also accused Jacobs of using his position on MARTOC as a political platform for the creation of the City of Brookhaven.
On Oct. 4, MARTA board members voted San Antonio's chief of VIA Metropolitan Transit Keith Parker as General Manager, instead of Ferrell. Board member Wendy Butler, Jacobs’ former campaign manager, abstained from the vote.
“I am perfectly willing to work with Keith Parker. However, it’s important for everyone to recognize bold action is needed to stem the tide of red ink at MARTA,” Jacobs told Brookhaven Patch.
Also last week, Jacobs filed a complaint last week that the MARTA GM selection process did not follow Georgia’s Open Meetings Act, zeroing in on an email from MARTA Board Director Barbara Babbitt Kaufman asking other board members for their vote on the GM.
A lawyer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the email did not violate any law.
Jacobs amended his complaint this week to also include falsification of documents, stating that Kaufman furnished a false affidavit to show compliance with the open meetings law.
Saporta wrote in a recent column in her popular SaportaReport, “What a big disappointment Jacobs has been in his role as MARTOC chairman. He had the opportunity to become a real statesman — helping resolve several structural issues in the MARTA Act and improving relations between Georgia’s largest public transit agency and the state.”
Jacobs also told Brookhaven Patch, “Maria Saporta has been paid $10,000 by MARTA to write articles like that.”
Saporta said she has not yet received $10,000 from MARTA, but is set to receive that amount as payment for an ad on her digital publication’s “Thought Leadership” section, which features columns from other local advertisers.
Saporta said the agency is an advertiser, but advertisers do not influence editorial content, similar to the design of traditional newspapers.
“They purchase a space where they can write what they want,” she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the digital publication released a column about the Thought Leadership contract with MARTA, saying that MARTA did, in fact, purchase a Thought Leadership website from SaportaReport in June.
However, no MARTA-sponsored columns on Thought Leadership page have run since then.
In the Wednesday column, Saporta Report publisher Chris Schroder stated, "Those columns should start soon."
Do you think Jacobs is overstepping in his role as MARTOC Chairman? Was it appropriate for his former campaign manager to abstain from MARTA's GM vote? Are Saporta's accusations unfounded?Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.