ATLANTA — A former MARTA employee alleges that the transit agency fired him after he discovered inconsistent financial records and expensive consulting fees related to its publicly funded expansion.
Josh Rowan filed a lawsuit on Tuesday under the Georgia Whistleblowers Act in Fulton County Superior Court. He previously served as MARTA’s deputy general manager from August 2022 to January 2023. He was terminated “with no cause given” during a meeting scheduled to discuss his concerns with CEO Collie Greenwood, according to the lawsuit.
At the time of Rowan’s hiring, MARTA had not started construction on any transit lines included in the More MARTA Atlanta program. He stepped into the role to speed up the expansion, funded by a half-penny sales tax approved by voters. The lawsuit comes as the City of Atlanta conducts an audit of the program to gain clarity about the use of funds.
The lawsuit alleges MARTA Chief Capital Officer Carrie Rocha — who served as a third-party consultant and oversaw costs and schedules for the expansion during Rowan’s tenure — kept her own spreadsheet of funds and expenses for the 17 projects.
Rocha’s records allegedly contained different numbers than the official, auditable records maintained by MARTA’s finance department, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Rowan discovered a $6 million discrepancy between the two sets of records on a monthly financial report, according to the lawsuit. Rocha allegedly told employees not to disclose financial numbers to the city until she had seen them, according to the lawsuit.
“MARTA looks forward to aggressively defending itself against these baseless allegations, which exhibit a lack of understanding of how MARTA works and operates,” said a spokesperson in an emailed statement.
The lawsuit also alleges that engineering consulting firm HNTB overcharged for services related to More MARTA projects. Rocha declined to provide HNTB invoices and withheld information from the finance department, according to the lawsuit.
Rowan found a report with $3 million charge for planning services related to the Bankhead station renovation and later received a $9 million proposal for design services, which was “exorbitantly high” by industry standards for a project with a $30 million construction budget, according to the lawsuit.
An HNTB spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rowan had concerns about potential conflicts of interest, considering Rocha and other MARTA officials previously worked for the firm, according to the lawsuit. He referred the matter to the agency’s audit department, the chief of which allegedly refused to investigate without sign-off from Greenwood, according to the lawsuit.
A day before the one-on-one with Greenwood, Rowan provided the CEO with a bulleted list of the issues he hoped to discuss, according to the lawsuit. Greenwood allegedly told him that MARTA wanted to go in a “different direction” and did not elaborate any further about the decision to terminate him, according to the lawsuit.