This letter was sent Aug. 26 by Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Gregory J. Giornelli to the members of the City Council and council President Lisa Borders, with a copy to Mayor Shirley Franklin.

Dear President Borders and Councilmembers:

As you know, a former employee of the City’s Arborist Division has recently raised questions about his termination and the performance of the area he was directly responsible for supervising. While it would be inappropriate to comment on the circumstances surrounding the employee’s termination (the mayor has requested a review of the termination by the Department of Human Resources, which should be completed shortly), I do think it is important to correct certain misinformation that is circulating in the public and to inform both City Council and the public about the record of the Arborist Division in protecting one of Atlanta’s most precious resources, its tree canopy.

The Arborist Division enforces the city’s Tree Protection Ordinance, and through its efforts the city is at the forefront of the region in preserving and replanting trees. No construction work takes place in the city without an assessment of its impact on existing trees. No new building or improvement receives a certificate of occupancy until the Arborist Division inspects the property for compliance with the tree replanting requirements. The Division has 12 full-time employees, including an Arboricultural Manager and 6 arborists. Six of the Division’s staff are certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. This well-qualified team has been responsible for the following accomplishments:

• We are on track in 2008 to add 15,000 new trees across every area of the city. This number includes about 13,000 new trees on private property (to replace trees lost in the process of new construction) and another 2,200 plantings in the public right of way.

• We spend nearly $2 million per year on enforcement actions, new plantings, and maintenance of trees in the public right of way.

• We have an effective partnership with Trees Atlanta to both plant and maintain trees in the public right of way.

• Over the past two years, the Division has conducted nearly 7,000 inspections per year.

• While the Northwest section of the city sees the most inspection activity (because of a larger amount of development), no single arborist is more important than any other arborist. None of the arborists conduct more than 1,900 inspections per year.

As you can see from the information above, the Arborist Division is one of the city’s bigger success stories. It is unfortunate that there is misinformation circling that has obscured our track record. Be assured that our success is not the function of any one person, but rather the work of a qualified team of individuals dedicated to protecting trees.

I attach a fact sheet on the Arborist Division for your information. I encourage you to pass this information along to your constituents who have expressed questions or concerns about the Arborist Division.

(Editor’s note: The fact sheet is not attached here because it contains the same information as the letter, with the addition of stating that “the Division collected approximately $1.7 million in Recompense Fees in 2007.”)

Lastly, please know that representatives of the Arborist Division will attend NPU meetings over the next several months to better inform our residents of the work of the Division.

Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.


Gregory J. Giornelli