News - Wayne Hill

For ignoring the cyst on MARTA's board

Mychal Walker is still a MARTA board member, even though he admitted that he took a $20,000 payment to "consult" a French company that builds equipment for transit organizations — and, at the same time, was going after a $100 million contract with MARTA.

That's not a bribe at all. Right?

For some asinine reason, when lawmakers wrote the legislation that created MARTA, they didn't give the MARTA board authority to fire its appointees.

Yanking Walker's ass off the MARTA board is up to the Gwinnett County Commission, which is headed by Chairman Wayne Hill. The commission by law appoints one of MARTA's 18 board members. Yet Hill has so far done nothing.

"At some point, I'm sure we'll address it," he tells CL. "And I think what's got to happen is we'll hold, like, a hearing or something, and he gets to come in and present, and somebody, and I don't know who, from MARTA has to come up here and present and then we make a decision.

"I don't know how yet all that comes together, so at some point we'll look at it and see."

OK. So Hill is a little confused about what to do with his rogue appointee. But he shouldn't be. Walker's transgressions were first reported in the AJC three months ago, and last month the MARTA board voted to request his removal after a hearing just like the kind Hill claims he wants to convene.

Hill's hemming and hawing demonstrates what a low priority MARTA is for him. But no matter how inconsequential Hill perceives MARTA to be, the transit agency moves close to a half-million people a day and is the backbone of a growing regional transportation network. What's more, it's facing a financial struggle that could shut it down. Having guys like Walker running the show doesn't help.

Still, Hill defends Walker. The reason: Walker came clean about accepting the payment. Hill hesitates to judge Walker because MARTA "sent me a letter saying that he disclosed!"

Gee, how forgiving.

Hill needs to immediately ask for Walker's resignation from the MARTA board and appoint someone who'll help — not hinder — the agency solve its many troubles.

Better yet, legislators should change the law so that suburban county commissioners who obviously don't give a damn about MARTA don't have the power to keep profiteering members on the board.

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