Judge lifts state sanctions against local governments during suit

LAWRENCEVILLE - The judge presiding over the lawsuit between Gwinnett County and its 15 cities lifted state sanctions Thursday afternoon against local governments while mediation is ongoing.

Superior Court Judge David E. Barrett of the Enotah Judicial Circuit - Towns, Union, Lumpkin and White counties - signed the order holding sanctions in abeyance.

The government's 10-year service delivery strategy expired on Feb. 28. The county and cities' failure to reach an agreement on a new strategy placed them in "unqualified status," putting them in danger of losing state administered financial assistance, grants, loans and permits.

"The judge's action allows us to work toward a long-term and equitable service delivery solution for every resident in Gwinnett County without the cities or county losing much-needed immediate funding and state permitting," County Administrator Jock Connell said.

Commission Chairman Charles Bannister said he expects the order to remain in place through mediation and called the ruling a "win for all sides."

A county representative said now the process can move forward without the "specter of unqualified status clouding the service delivery issues."

Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Tom Davis issued the same order on March 3, but that order was vacated because state law mandates a judge from outside the county be appointed.

The mediation process is scheduled to begin at

10 a.m. on April 22 in the auditorium of the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners will meet with governing bodies of each Gwinnett city.