Gwinnett Is Great (If You’ve Paid Off The Right People)

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.

19 comments

  1. genehilbert says:

    They have staggered the terms so that voting in a clean slate of commissioners is not possible in a single election. So come Nov. everyone that is up for re-election I’m voting against. They have done nothing but cause a damn mess. Placing the garbage collection fees on my property taxes is first and foremost a CF.
    Be selective as to whom is voted in and vote them out when their term expires. Limit them all to one term. Clean up this mess……….

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      But wouldn’t voting out each commissioner when their term expires at least require some kind of coordination amongst the less than 10 percent of voters that turnout for local elections in Gwinnett on average?

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      When you refer to placing the garbage collection fees on your property taxes as a “CF”, I assume that you are most definitely not talking about it being a “Clean Fork”…

    • Jimmie says:

      HEY! There are a few regulars on here that think one of them, Mike Beaudreau is the cat’s meow. I’m with ya on voting all sitting ones out and hopefully non life long politicians in. For example Mike Korom. We need to get these connected career politicians outta here. Have ya ever looked at these Commissioners campaign contributors? 90% of them are the exact contractors they approve the bids on. How is there no conflict of interest there?

      • Brett says:

        Unfortunately, Mr. Korom chose to mail in his disclosure rather than file electronically; therefore, it is not readily available for all to see.

  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    “Gwinnett Is Great (If You’ve Paid Off The Right People)”

    ….Which is why the book is called “The Art of the Shady Land Deal”.

    I mean, people have got to understand that the Shady Land Deal is not just a lifestyle….It’s a state of mind.

  3. Harry says:

    No hotel should receive any public money – federal, state or local, and it’s a travesty under the circumstances where evidently John Heard will be allowed to vote for it as one of four remaining commissioners. Is that not the biggest conflict of interest ever? As a Gwinnett resident I’m disgusted. The tea party should get involved and show up for the vote.

    How could we end up with so many crooks on the county commission?

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      Unfortunately, Heard’s obvious conflict-of-interest with the hotel vote pales in comparison to many of the recent scandals (Bannister, Kennerly, Lasseter, garbage mess, baseball stadium, continued shady land deals, etc) and potential scandals (the airport) which is why it probably won’t register in a county where a 15% voter turnout rate is considered through-the-roof in local elections.

      The low voter turnout in local elections and the historic cinergy between real estate developers, land spectulators and local politicians is more than likely the answer to your question as to why Gwinnett has ended up with som many crooks on its county commission.

      In a metro area, state and region of the country known to be very, very, VERY friendly to real estate developers, Gwinnett is basically an out-and-out orgy of politician-developer cooperation and has been known as such for quite a while over the last 40 years or so.

      • Harry says:

        Yeah, but are you saying that economic development is always accompanied by endemic levels of corruption? I’d like to believe that’s not the case.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          I’m not saying that economic development is always accompanied by endemic levels of corruption.

          But as long as politicians need (and WANT) money and developers have money that politicians need and want and both developers and politicians share the common goal of wanting to make money, economic development, politics and corruption will all be really good friends and frequent bedfellows.

          Want makes the corruption seemingly increasingly worse in present-day Gwinnett is the ultra-high level of transience in the county as most of the population hails from someplace else whether it be another part of the U.S. or another country and thus has very little, if any, knowledge or interest in the local political scene, which may help to explain the 10% average participation rate in local elections that allows the crooks to keep getting re-elected to office over-and-over again as low public interest in the political process often equals more power for said crooks.

    • Charlie says:

      “How could we end up with so many crooks on the county commission?”

      Because we continue to elect people who tell us what we want to hear regarding social issues as the litmus test as to who is qualified for office.

      Guess what. A scoundral has no hesitation to make his position match exactly yours on abortion, gays, illegal immigrants, or anything else.

      The honest one is usually the one who says “I believe this, which is 90% of what you believe”, then gets told they are a murderer, homosexual, are for amnesty, or otherwise soft on the red meat issue of the day.

      Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Happens every time.

      • Harry says:

        I don’t know if I agree with you. If one candidate happens to present policy positions more socially conservative than the another, there is no guarantee of propensity to corruption either way just taken on that basis. So I myself being socially conservative, all things otherwise being equal, would vote for the more socially conservative of the two. Your opinion may vary.

        • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

          There are definitely political scoundrels and sociopaths on the left, too as unscrupulous politicians will play to whatever crowd they have to play to, whether it be in far left-leaning liberal states California and New York or a much more socially-conservative state like Georgia, in order to get elected to office and have unfettered access to lobbyist-funded money and gifts.

  4. Will, the Winner! says:

    I don’t know why you all are complaining. Just pay them a little money. I know I did. Look where it got me.

  5. Tim Sullivan says:

    Mr heard only won by 265+- votes in the last election. Had he not jumped on the Anti-Airport band wagon I’m sure the results would have been different. I told folks we needed to look at the situation, gather facts and make an informed decision. In the end I told the lawrenceville folks I had their backs. Now that this is none I can say My vote would also have been NO!

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