U.S. Senate Candidate, Dillard-Smith, Betrayed Turner Field Activists
(APN) ATLANTA — Maya Dillard-Smith, one of six candidates for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), betrayed activists who were seeking a Community Benefits Agreement for the neighborhoods around the now-former Turner Field, Atlanta Progressive News can reveal.
In addition to Dillard-Smith, Sarah Riggs Amico, Marckeith DeJesus, James Knox, Tricia Carpenter McCracken, Jon Ossoff, and former Mayor of Columbus Teresa Tomlinson are seeking the Democratic nomination in the upcoming May 19, 2020 Primary Election.
Dillard-Smith gained the confidence of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition at the height of the group’s efforts to influence the sale of the former Turner Field. She held herself out as the group’s “Legal Advisor,” according to emails obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
Then, without telling the Coalition, she began secretly meeting with a splinter group that she helped form along with developer Carter and Associates. This group eventually, in July 2017, became the “Southside Catalyst Fund,” which later disbanded.
Dillard-Smith was “having side conversations with developers and Georgia State [University],” Sherise Brown, current Co-Chair of the Coalition, now called the Coalition for Community Benefits, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Brown learned from a source at Atlanta City Hall that Dillard-Smith had secretly started meeting with Carter, she said. The source had witnessed the meetings taking place but had not realized the Coalition was unaware of the meetings, she said.
“We had rules for no outside conversations. She was having conversations with our City Councilmember Carla Smith and meetings with Carter, and the Coalition really didn’t know about some of these meetings. And then it came to light they were trying to organize another group outside the Coalition and she take the lead,” Brown said.
APN has obtained photographic copies of each page of the signed Memorandum of Understanding creating the Fund.
During its short existence, the group received a forty thousand dollar loan from an organization affiliated with developer Carter and Associates, one of the partners later selected for the Turner Field redevelopment.
This loan was earmarked to pay approximately two and a half months of Dillard-Smith’s initial salary as Consultant/Interim Executive Director.
Dillard-Smith was to use that money to apply for other grants, which were to be used in part to repay Carter.
Dillard-Smith was to receive one hundred thousand dollars over a period of six months, but after receiving her initial payment, she left the Catalyst Fund just as quickly as she betrayed and left the Coalition.
“When the Southside Catalyst Fund started meeting, Maya was no longer with them,” Brown said.
The Southside Catalyst Fund was supposed to obtain 501(c)(3), federal tax-exempt status, but had not even formed a nonprofit corporation, according to a review of the State of Georgia’s corporations database.
The Livable Centers Initiative study for the Stadium Neighborhoods, published on September 29, 2017, said the Southside Catalyst Fund was hiring an executive director, developing a plan, and gaining 501(c)(3) status.
Nearly a year later, the group still did not have bylaws: “All five presidents are meeting to establish bylaws for the 501(c)(3) but the MOU between the groups has been signed,” reported the Grant Park Neighborhood Association minutes for August 21, 2018.
References are made to the Southside Catalyst Fund in various neighborhood association and Neighborhood Planning Unit V meeting agendas and minutes from 2017 to 2018, but the references cease after 2018.
It does not appear that the Southside Catalyst Fund received any grants, nor did it repay Carter. “I doubt it. Hell no,” Alison Johnson, co-Chair of the Coalition, told APN.
It is not clear what work Dillard-Smith performed in exchange for the forty thousand dollars.
“She didn’t do nothing,” Johnson said.
“At one point, they stopped meeting anymore. I know it’s disbanded,” Brown said.
“I think they just disbanded, after Maya had taken… from Carter and the neighborhoods,” Johnson said.
In late 2017, the Coalition eventually helped bring about the creation of the Stadium Neighborhoods Trust Fund that is currently disbursing some five million dollars to the community.
Prior to the creation of the Trust Fund, Dillard-Smith had been the only recipient of a community benefit after years of advocacy by five neighborhoods.
“The only beneficiary of the benefit. She was the sole proprietor,” Johnson said.
“Nobody’s getting a benefit but you,” Brown said.
“You left the coalition, but you taking our body of work and using it for your benefit,” Brown said.
“And we were like, wow, our work. We did a Tent City for 63 days at the Turner Stadium,” Brown said.
“No, I do not feel that Maya would be a good candidate. It’s trust issues for me,” Brown told APN.
“That’s exactly what Georgia doesn’t need. That type of representation sets Georgia back a hundred years. That’s not the representation we need, want, or deserve. We need someone that’s gonna work for the people that we can trust,” Johnson said.
“It’s crazy that she would have the audacity to run. We can’t afford to have a representative like that for us,” Johnson said.
“She betrayed the trust, and people was upset with it,” Brown said.
The other individuals who formed the organization were R. Scott Taylor, Jr., of COHW Summerhill FS, LLC; John A. Colabelli, President of Organized Neighbors of Summerhill; Chris Lemons, President of Peoplestown Neighborhood Association; Jane H. Ridley, President of Mechanicsville Civic Association; and former State Rep. Douglas Dean (D-Atlanta), President of Pittsburgh Neighborhood Association.
Grant Park, another neighborhood surrounding the former Turner Field, did not sign the Memorandum.
Dillard-Smith’s campaign website, http://www.mayaforgeorgia.com , is non-functioning. Dillard-Smith’s campaign phone number leads to a generic voicemail greeting.
Previously, Dillard-Smith created national controversy when she resigned from her position as Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia over the organization’s defense of transgender people in their ability to use gender-appropriate restrooms.
Dillard-Smith went on national television talking about how she feared for the safety of her daughters after an alleged incident in which her daughters were in a women’s restroom along with a transgender person.
APN sent an email inquiry to Dillard-Smith’s campaign email, but did not receive a reply.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2020)