Lisa Gordon, the Beltline's chief operating officer, will take over in the interim period.
The sudden departure comes on the heels of an AJC Open Records request that found officials at Atlanta Beltline Inc., the nonprofit that oversees the planning and development of the 22-mile parks, trails, and transit project, had expensed items not directly related to building the $2.8 billion project. ABI reimbursed the city for some of the purchases after the newspaper requested the documents. Regardless, the purchases rankled watchdogs and some city officials.
UPDATE, 12:02 p.m.: A statement from John Somerhalder, ABI board chairman:
“The Atlanta BeltLine remains the single most compelling vision for the future of Atlanta. It came to fruition through deep, broad and passionate grassroots support that brought communities across this city together like never before. That foundation of public support is still the bedrock of the Atlanta BeltLine and remains the single most important element in moving the project forward. The progress we have made with the help of the community and our strong and numerous partners will continue as we realize this powerful vision for the future of our city.
“To continue this great progress, the board has determined that it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change in leadership. Today, the board has unanimously agreed that Brian Leary will transition out of the organization by the end of this month. During that time he will assist the board in its planning efforts to transition to new leadership. Effective immediately, in her role as Chief Operating Officer, Lisa Gordon will lead the organization reporting to the board of directors in an interim capacity. The board will establish a process to search for a new President and CEO.
“The board thanks Brian for his service and all of the accomplishments we have made as a team under his leadership. Since its inception in 2006, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. has worked under extremely challenging conditions to deliver significant portions of the project. The master plans, parks, trails, affordable housing, public art and foundational studies for transit would not have happened without strong public involvement and the commitment and dedication of an expert staff who believe as strongly in the vision of the project as anyone. Their work and progress will continue.
“Invest Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. have strengthened policies regarding the expenditure of TAD funds that will ensure good stewardship of taxpayer money. As stewards of taxpayer dollars, we must hold ourselves accountable and will not accept anything less than prudent, transparent and efficient use of public funds.
“We celebrate the tremendous progress the Atlanta BeltLine has made and remain committed to moving the Atlanta BeltLine forward as quickly as possible, working with the Mayor, City Council, Invest Atlanta and all of our partners and stakeholders.”
UPDATE 12:05 p.m. And here's a statement from Brian McGowan, the president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm which oversees the Beltline:
“Leary did an incredible job for the City of Atlanta advancing one of our most important economic development projects to new levels. We fully appreciated his service and are now dedicated to aggressively moving this project forward.”
“I am confident that the new policies, people and procedures that have been put in place will provide a level of oversight and accountability so that taxpayers can be sure that their dollars are being spent appropriately. Now this is behind us, it’s critical that we focus on how we create jobs and ensure that Atlanta is competing globally for investment.”
UPDATE, 1:53 p.m. Saba Long, a political consultant and downtown resident, ponders possible replacements for Leary's position:
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