0

Bannister threatened sheriff with $1.7 million suit

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Charles Bannister, once the leader of Gwinnett County government, threatened to sue his former employer and its Sheriff's Department earlier this year for nearly $2 million, reiterating complaints that he was wrongly arrested on DUI charges last year as part of a smear campaign, according to records obtained by the Daily Post.

In March, Bannister's attorney sent an ante-litem notice, or a precursor to a lawsuit, addressed to Gwinnett County Commissioners and other dignitaries demanding a settlement of $1.79 million as retribution for the "malicious" arrest and subsequent public scrutiny, documents obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act show.

The notice set a timetable of a month for the county to respond to that offer. In April, former county attorney Karen Thomas wrote in response, "Your allegations have been carefully reviewed and your demand for settlement is respectfully denied," a letter obtained via Open Records law states.

That's where Bannister's push for a settlement apparently ended. Court records show no formal suit has been filed in Gwinnett; Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais said Monday the department is not aware of a lawsuit.

Bourbonnais referred specific questions to the county's law department, where acting county attorney Van Stephens did not return a request for comment late Monday.

Sheriff Butch Conway, who the notice points to as having a vendetta against the former Commission Chairman, "stands by his comments made at the press conference when the (DUI charges against Bannister) were dismissed," Bourbonnais said.

Atlanta-based attorney David Walbert, who filed the ante-litem notice for Bannister in March, did not return a message left at his office Monday.

The notice rails against Bannister's June 28, 2010 arrest after leaving a Lilburn restaurant as illegal and unconstitutional. "The entire sordid affair arose out of the personally motivated desire of Sheriff Conway, acting through his underlings, to humiliate (Bannister)," it reads. And later: "Bannister will live with this public humiliation until he dies."

Bannister, then 71, was exonerated of DUI charges lodged by a Sheriff's Department deputy after breath and blood tests revealed he had no alcohol in his system. Four deputies in the restaurant claimed to have seen Bannister drinking beers before leaving in a county-issued Crown Victoria that evening -- statements corroborated by a waitress, according to a 294-page Georgia Bureau of Investigation report on the matter.

Bannister told investigators he'd had a couple beers after work with a colleague but was by no means a danger on the road.

A deputy who pulled Bannister over claimed he smelled a strong odor of alcohol and that Bannister appeared drunk. That Bannister failed field sobriety tests such as a one-leg stand was more a product of age than his level of impairment, the notice insists.

Throughout the ordeal, Conway denied that he and Bannister were political adversaries. He called the arrest and baseless charges more a product of poor judgment than animosity.

The controversial arrest came months before Bannister suddenly resigned to avoid a perjury charge as a special grand jury was investigating controversial land deals conducted under his watch.

The highly visible Bannister has since slipped into relative obscurity, appearing at only a handful of events, such as a speech by Georgia's new governor and a meeting with business leaders.

Bannister's confidants recently told the Daily Post the Lilburn resident has found a peace in retirement. He renovated his wife's childhood home and savors time spent with his grandchildren.

-

-

Comments

psychientology 2 years, 4 months ago

Here's an idea. Put 12 people from Gwinnett on the jury and see how he does. My guess is he's wasting more tax payers money with this nonsense. He caught a break not being indicted. Something most of us will never understand. Resign and don't go to prison. Please....

1

Coolray 2 years, 4 months ago

The arrest was no doubt a political vendetta. However, Bannister was one of the worst politicans to ever hold the commission chair. Read the grand jury report to find out how petty and mean spirited he really was. So, I agree he was treated in an unfair way by the Sheriff, but he needed to be removed from office.

0

Kent 2 years, 4 months ago

I find it amazing Charles has not been successful in attempting to loot the taxpayers one more time. In the past that has been standard procedure for developers and influential people in the loop. They know how to milk the taxpayer cow. Just threaten a lawsuit and you hit the jack pot. He knows how the game is played in Gwinnett county. There are commissioners on the board now who should have been swept out the back door with him and Kevin. Has the county paid under the table just to settle and make him go away? With the corrupt establishment in this county allowing him to resign to avoid prosecution, it would not surprise me.

0

R 2 years, 4 months ago

Mr Bannister ... The father and FACE of ANY future commercial passenger air traffic expansion activity at Briscoe.

0

mustardandbiscuit 2 years, 4 months ago

Explain how 5 people including the waitress saw him drinking mucho beers, there was a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage, he failed the roadside sobriety tests and the blood test (which normally registers higher than breath) displayed NO alcohol??? Something stinks. I think he WAS impaired, but for some embarassing political reason, he was not prosecuted. Would this have happened to any other citizen? Not no, but, heII no!

2

psychientology 2 years, 4 months ago

Mustard I believe you're on to something. Any other citizen would have been indicted even if they resigned. too.

2

Linda 2 years, 4 months ago

he was using a county vehicle

0

mickey 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes, he was drinking, he admitted it, and he was in a COUNTY vehicle. I don't care if it was one beer or ten. This is just another show of his arrogance. He walked the halls of GJAC as though he owned it. Those of you that elected him should be ashamed.

0

Cleanupguy 2 years, 4 months ago

Bannister was ethically impaired from day one. So many examples – where to start. My neighborhood pushed him back once and he in turn shoved through a trash transfer station approval via a developer buddy of his. The Catholic Archdiocese objected to having it next to their church, and Bannister’s revenge backfired. Recall that Police Chief Walters was suspended (he should have been fired, but guess who his Commission Chairman boss was) for “strongly suggesting” to his officers that they vote for Bannister the last time around. I wonder how much contact his folks had with the blood samples after the Sheriff’s part was done, or if Walters would still back a guy that resigned instead of face felony criminal charges. Nothing much would surprise me with these dirty dealing folks. Anyway, Bannister is an arrogant example of everything wrong in Gwinnett politics. Regrettably, he has left a few old remnants behind that are still in office, like his sock puppet Shirley Lasseter and his old buddy John Heard. Worst of all, there are more minions soon to be in the running coming up behind them, and those few that show up to vote have no clue and don’t seem to want any.

0

Linda 2 years, 4 months ago

That scoundral is still trying to get money for Gwinnett citizens. He doesn't deserve is retirement pension and he thinks he should sue. Glad he's gone.

1

kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

It appears that after all this time, Bannister has run down his bank account and needs to look somewhere for money. Employees at that bar said he was drinking, even though a breath test showed "nothing." I am thinking that the sheriff "fixed" it so the big-shot got off the hook and now the "little-shot" is looking to capitalize on his situation.

Bannister should be glad he quit before he went to trial. He should just bury his head and hid for good and stay out of politics. He has done enough damage to Gwinnett.

2

R 2 years, 4 months ago

While I'm glad that the paper came across this tidbit, it appears to be history from June 2010 and didn't move forward. But the timing of both he and Kenerly being back in the news cycle as Gwinnett sends out the RFPs for the airport is just fantastic.
The Grand jury investigation, the indictment and the near indictment stir up all those funky deals we ALL overpaid for time and time again OVER several years.

Just remember, if you are a proponent of the airport expansion that Bannister himself was the originator and champion, the "hood ornament" if you will. His "supporters" on the board of commissioners were either charged or severely criticized by the grand jury for operational lapses and sheer stupidity. If there was a law against stupidity in office, maybe there would have been a few more indictments. (Better to be thought a fool and be "free" than open your mouth and prove yourself a crook.)

The odds do NOT bode well for our residents success, but the trend-line is OVERWHELMING for yet another high priced under-performing boondoggle, the difference this time around is we don't have the economic margin to "hide it" or miss this time...

0

Sign in to comment