Charles Bannister arrested, charged with DUI in county vehicle

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

LILBURN -- Gwinnett County's top elected official was arrested on DUI charges Monday night -- while driving a county vehicle.

Jail records show that Charles Bannister, the second-term chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, was arrested by Gwinnett County Sheriff's deputies and booked into Gwinnett County Jail at 9 p.m. on charges of driving under the influence.

A concerned patron at a Lilburn establishment Bannister was at prior to his arrest called the sheriff's department on suspicions he was too drunk to drive, spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said.

"Sheriff's deputies observed Mr. Bannister in his vehicle," Bourbonnais said, "at which time he had an improper lane change and failed to use a turn signal, I believe."

Field sobriety tests were given to Bannister on the scene, but Bourbonnais wasn't sure Monday night if he was given a breathalyzer test.

The county has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol and operating official vehicles.

County spokesman Joe Sorenson did not have a statement immediately after the incident.

Bannister was elected chairman of the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners in 2004. Before then, he served in local and state government for three decades, including a stint as Lilburn's mayor and 18 years in the Georgia House of Representatives.

In recent years, he has faced opposition, including the empaneling of a special grand jury to investigate land deals and residents angry over decisions to raise taxes and implement a new trash plan, as well as lawsuits over the trash plan and service delivery strategies with local cities.

Last year, Dacula man Randy DeVault filed paperwork to begin a recall petition against the chairman, whose term expires in two years. DeVault allowed that application to expire and began a new one, which is awaiting a judge's ruling before it can proceed.

Calls to Bannister's Lilburn home were not returned Monday night.

Commissioners Shirley Lasseter, Kevin Kenerly and Bert Nasuti were not available late Monday.

District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau was, and was quick to urge the public to wait before jumping to conclusions.

"I don't like to see people making judgments before they have the full story," Beaudreau told the Daily Post. "Every man deserves a chance. I hope people don't rush to judgement."

"He deserves a chance to explain what happened," he added.

-- Staff writer Camie Young contributed to this report