SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Board members of the Chatham Area Transit Authority voted on Tuesday to reaffirm CEO Bacarra Mauldin’s firing.
This is evidenced in a response to Mauldin’s Feb. 9 motion for preliminary injunction, which asked the Chatham County Superior Court to prohibit CAT from replacing her as CEO — and to reinstate her — until the court decides whether she was lawfully terminated.
Mauldin says her termination on Jan. 26 was “unlawful and retaliatory.” She claims Tabitha Odell was not actually appointed to the board when members voted to fire her — a claim the Georgia Attorney General’s Office is looking into.
Mauldin adds that Odell “spearheaded the charge to have her fired.”
But CAT says Odell was sworn in by the Chatham County Commission on Feb. 12, retroactive to Jan. 15, making her an official board member for both votes on Mauldin’s termination.
“Even assuming for the sake of argument that (a) Ms. Odell was improperly appointed, (b) had no legal right to vote on Plaintiff’s January 26, 2021 termination or participate in the executive session that preceded it, and (c) the vote was a ‘legal nullity’ as Plaintiff claims — all of which CAT expressly disputes — this issue is now legally moot,” CAT’s response reads.
Still at issue is the reasoning for Mauldin’s firing, which took place seven months into her contract.
According to court filings, Mauldin claims CAT terminated her in retaliation for “engaging in protected whistleblowing activities” surrounding the award of a legal services contract.
The former CEO claims the board violated CAT’s policy — and possibly federal regulations — in its decision to award the contract to Bouhan Falligant, LLP, rather than Jackson Lewis, P.C.
Meanwhile, CAT claims Mauldin’s relationship with Jackson Lewis, P.C., and her spending with the firm “greatly concerned” board members.
In the fallout, CAT has appointed longtime employee Valerie Ragland as interim CEO.
“The Board maintains that Chatham Area Transit Authority is on an upward trajectory,” CAT stated after announcing her appointment. “Since the departure of the CEO, every member of the executive team remains in place, and the transit system has not had to conduct layoffs through nearly a year of a global pandemic.”