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Cities to sue state over sanctions

LAWRENCEVILLE -- City officials are threatening legal actions because the state has not imposed sanctions on Gwinnett and its municipalities despite a judge's order.

Judge David Barrett ordered sanctions if the county and cities did not come to an agreement on a service delivery strategy, which has been in dispute for nearly a year.

Barrett's deadline was Monday, but the Georgia Department of Community Affairs' Mike Beatty said the department would not impose the penalty, which includes the loss of state funding and permits, until the end of February.

"We're talking about a judge's order, which you are ignoring," Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson said. "That's the only way we are going to get this settled. .... We've been burned so many times before."

Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Charles Bannister said the punishment is not needed to force the county to negotiate.

"We are currently working overtime to reach a settlement with the cities that is fair to all of Gwinnett's citizens. This takes time but can -- and I hope will -- happen," Bannister said, pointing out that the judge also issued a scheduling order calling for a pre-trial conference to take place on March 19.

"This request by (attorney Buddy) Welch seems out of tune with the best interests of all citizens of Gwinnett, including those in the cities he represents who will pay for this motion," Bannister said. "Think about it, even if he is successful, the sanctions are only imposed 28 days earlier and have the potential to restrict real money coming to Gwinnett or its cities within that time frame."