Southwest Cobb’s Woody Thompson, a Democrat, said the legality of donations of $370,000 by the Cumberland CID and $200,000 from the Town Center CID to the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network is “questionable.”
Lynn Rainey, attorney for both CIDs, has said the donations are OK because MAVEN performs a “nonpartisan, factually neutral voter education activities,” rather than an advocacy group, like the Citizens for Transportation Mobility Inc.
But Thompson said the CIDs should get a second opinion.
“This business about being education, as opposed to promoting it, I think is a fine line,” Thompson said. “It’s a legal matter; somebody probably needs to look it over.”
Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, a Republican, said the CIDs need to do their research before giving to MAVEN.
“I just think that anybody who contributes to MAVEN needs to be careful about not having a conflict of interest,” he said.
Ott, who opposes the $6.1 billion TIA project list and the 1 percent sales tax that would pay for it, questions whether MAVEN is acting as an educator or advocate.
“It’s my belief that if you are interested in educating the public, you should present both sides of the issue,” he said. “If you are going to only present one side or the other, I would say that group is an advocate.”
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, a Republican who served on the 21-member Atlanta Regional Roundtable, which created the project list, said he believes the contributions the CIDs have made are for educational purposes and completely within the law.
“This discussion comes up every time there’s a SPLOST, and it’s been discussed to death,” he said. “I’m satisfied that they’re following the law.”
The issue of CID donations came into question after Larry Savage of east Cobb, one of Lee’s opponents in the July 31 Republican Primary race for chairman, wrote a letter to commissioners and got a response from Rainey.
Northeast Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said she planned to meet with County Attorney Dorothy Bishop on Monday to discuss one of Savage’s requests, that the Board of Commissioners “exercise its authority” over the CIDs in order to bring them in line with their stated purpose. Birrell questions whether the county has any such authority.
“I’m not sure we have the authority to control them,” Birrell said. “They’re created by the Legislature, and their money comes from their (business) members.”
Birrell said she isn’t sure if MAVEN is advocating for the TIA, since all the ads she has seen promoting the referendum were paid for by Citizens for Transportation Mobility.
Efforts to reach northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham were not successful.