In Gwinnett three Commissioners have resigned over the past two years. One after he was indicted on bribery charges, the second to avoid a perjury charge and the third last week after pleading guilty to bribery and other charges. Oblivious to the fact they may have a credibility problem, Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners is set to approve a hotel project for a company which employs a sitting Commissioner as a consultant.
Commissioner John Heard resigned his position on the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau (GCVB) Board before the vote took place to award a contract for a hotel at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth. Heard said he had been paid “in the $100,000-plus range” as a consultant for the firm which later was awarded the bid by GCVB.
The winning bid…
“stood out among the others because it did not seek any public financing,” explains Preston Williams, CEO of the GCVB/Gwinnett Center.
The hotel project must be approved by the Board of Commissioners.
GCVB’s minutes dated 2/22/12 state the company awarded the project had “secured recovery zone bonds through the Gwinnett Development Authority.” In other words Federal stimulus funds, which according to GCVB are not “public financing.” What a relief.
It’s business as usual in Gwinnett where the well connected have the inside track to every deal cut. Want your zoning approved or the County to buy your land? Bribe a Commissioner. Want your bid for a hotel project approved? Hire a Commissioner as a consultant and the deal will sail on through.
My column today covers Gwinnett’s corruption issues from a big picture perspective, but this particular deal needs its own call out because a vote is still pending. Passing this says that despite recent indictments, it’s businss as usual in Gwinnett.
GCVB is pushing for the Board of Commissioners to vote on June 19th. Will the Commissioners try to restore credibility with a skeptical public or forge ahead on the well worn path laid out by their predecessors?
Gwinnett was built on the slogan “Gwinnett is Great!”. Decades later, it still is. For those who are connected and have paid off the right people.