Gena Evans, the former director of the State Road and Tollway Authority, left state government to concentrate more on her private consulting, which she has been doing on the side for years while director of the authority, she said.
Evans said her private clients posed no conflict of interest for the state, but she would not say who they had been.
“In fact, anything I did I cleared with the previous governor’s office or this one,” she said, adding she was “very careful about that.” She said she was looking forward to focusing on the private work. “I’m very excited about it, tickled to death about it,” she said.
Copies of Evans’ personnel files obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contain no clearance or disclosure of the private consulting.
A spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, Brian Robinson, said in an email that Evans “informed the governor that she had been doing outside consulting on vertical construction” (buildings, as opposed to roads). Asked whether that meant Evans had gotten clearance beforehand, or simply informed the governor as she left, Robinson replied, “no comment.”
He said she assured Deal, who was Evans’ boss as chairman of the SRTA board, that there was no conflict of interest in her work.
He also said it appeared that Evans had followed what written policy there is over SRTA employees. The law and a state policy allow for moonlighting but apparently leave it up to individual agencies to spell out the rules for their workers.
At least two of the state agencies that employed Evans before she went to SRTA require employees to fill out disclosure forms when they work on the side, naming the outside employers and the type of work. At one of those agencies Evans signed a form in 2002 acknowledging such a policy.
But when she took on the SRTA job in 2008, where she says she began the moonlighting, Evans did not implement a disclosure policy there, according to the agency.
Deal would like SRTA to have one.
“Governor Deal thinks all agency heads need to follow the law,” Robinson said, “and he thinks that all agencies should have disclosure forms for those engaged in outside employment — particularly those at higher level positions.”
A spokeswoman for SRTA, Malika Reed Wilkins, said the authority is looking into implementing one now.
Evans said her consulting started in the final year that Sonny Perdue was governor. (He left office Jan. 10, 2011.) A former spokesman for Perdue, Bert Brantley, said Perdue and his former chief of staff did not respond to messages about the matter.
Evans said she knows of at least two other top state agency employees who are also consulting on the side, but she would not name them. Robinson said the governor’s office knows of one agency commissioner granted permission to continue service on outside boards unrelated to the state.
In allowing moonlighting, state law lays out many caveats. The employee must give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay, and the outside work can’t go against the state’s interests.
The state Attorney General’s Office would not comment on Evans’ private consulting, saying it could not since it represents the agencies that employed her.
Evans spoke with the AJC last month but did not respond to further requests for comment made on her last weekday in office, March 29.
The authority oversees the Ga. 400 toll as well as part of state transportation financing. Under Evans SRTA has been instrumental in promoting and advancing the optional toll lane concept for metro Atlanta and implementing the I-85 HOT lane in Gwinnett County.
Evans’ departure prompted a changeover of leadership at the authority. Its board, which Deal heads as chairman, confirmed Chris Tomlinson as the new director. Tomlinson, a lawyer, was Evans’ protege but has been a less controversial figure than Evans, who was fired in 2009 by the state Department of Transportation in a highly public struggle.
In addition, Tomlinson has brought on Brantley as a deputy executive director of the authority.
Evans’ future consulting remains to be seen. She would not say what projects she had worked on as a consultant, but as examples said she had “reviewed an RFP, helped draft RFP’s” — requests for proposal, or bids for work. Before Perdue brought her into transportation at the DOT and SRTA, she had long experience with buildings at the Georgia Building Authority and State Properties Commission. Asked about the new Falcons stadium, she intimated that work on that project might be a possibility.
“You know, I’ve been approached about some discussions” about it, she said. “But none of that’s formalized or far enough to comment on.”