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LETTERS: Commissioner responds to Partnership Gwinnett concerns

Concerns over transparency, funding heard

Concerns over transparency, funding heard

I have recently received a great deal of feedback from residents in the form of emails and news stories questioning the county's funding of the Chamber of Commerce-led Partnership Gwinnett economic development initiative. They voice concerns that the money may have been directed toward the chamber's efforts to support passage of the regional transportation referendum.

I hear and understand those concerns loud and clear. In fact, I and other members of the Board of Commissioners have been working for months to change the current mechanism for funding the marketing efforts needed to draw businesses to Gwinnett. It is critical that our residents are able see how their tax dollars are spent, and it is critical that they can trust their county government to remain neutral on any referenda put before voters.

My goal for many years -- and my purpose for serving as your county commissioner -- is to help make Gwinnett the best place to do business in the country, if not the world. A key element to achieving that goal is to improve mobility here in Gwinnett County. This commissioner is committed to working on transportation solutions that are acceptable to Gwinnett's residents and businesses. We have a good transportation plan that was developed with significant citizen involvement -- and we will continue to explore ways to fund it, perhaps solely through the continuation of our current SPLOST program or perhaps with the help of other state or federal programs that may become available.

But if any funding mechanism for transportation or any other county infrastructure or service requires a referendum, you can be assured that none of your tax dollars will be spent to advocate for or against the measure. I will do my part to make certain we earn your trust as we move forward with economic development marketing efforts and with the implementation of our transportation plan.-- John Heard

District 4 Commissioner

Now state can practice living within its means

To Gov. Deal and all T-SPLOST supporters, since this failed, you will have to do what 98 percent of the state of Georgia and probably the United States, does -- budget your money properly.

Mr. Deal, you said it very simply: you will have to prioritize your construction and road projects according to the money you have. Being on social security and disability, prioritizing every penny I have is a daily function. The most important things will get done. And the fluff can come later.-- Linda Hutchinson

Duluth

Comments

SabrinaWorks247 2 years, 4 months ago

Hi John: Thank you for your comments. In your letter, you said:

"But if any funding mechanism for transportation or any other county infrastructure or service requires a referendum, you can be assured that none of your tax dollars will be spent to advocate for or against the measure."

You said you can assure us none of our tax dollars WILL be spent to advocate for or against the measure. Can you also assure us that none of our tax dollars have ALREADY been spent on advocacy?

Sabrina Smith, Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

they have all spoke for it.

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SabrinaWorks247 2 years, 4 months ago

Dear Commissioner John Heard: You are the District 4 commissioner for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners (BOC). Until your resignation in February following your disclosure that you had accepted a consulting fee in the $100,000 range from the hotel developer whose terms were accepted by the Gwinnett Conventions & Visitors Bureau (GCVB) to build a hotel at the Gwinnett Center with a $1 per year lease arrangement, you also served on the GCVB board. District 2 Commissioner Lynette Howard, who asked the Gwinnett Chamber’s board to review the proposed BOC resolution to move forward with RFPs for commercial service at Briscoe while forgetting to inform BOC Chairman Nash of her plans, also serves on the board of the GCVB. Doesn’t the GCVB give $100,000 per year to the Gwinnett Chamber? Was this put out on bid, or was it a no-bid arrangement, just as is the case with payments made to the Gwinnett Chamber from the BOC, GCPS, the cities in Gwinnett and the CIDs?

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SabrinaWorks247 2 years, 4 months ago

The first item listed on District 3 Commissioner Mike Beaudreau’s re-election campaign website, under “What’s Been Accomplished” is his support of the Gwinnett Chamber’s Partnership Gwinnett program. I have repeatedly asked Mike questions about taxpayer funding of the Gwinnett Chamber, and despite repeated promises to get back to me, I have not received any information from him. If Mike’s # 1 accomplishment as a commissioner is supporting the Gwinnett Chamber, you would think that he would be happy to brag about it.
Gwinnett BOC Chairman Charlotte Nash, who honestly appears to be trying to clean up Gwinnett County, is an ex-officio member of the Gwinnett Chamber’s board of directors. She also serves on the Executive Committee of Partnership Gwinnett. The Gwinnett BOC has been giving the Gwinnett Chamber $500,000 per year on a no-bid contract. Chairman Nash has confirmed that Partnership Gwinnett is NOT a separate entity from the Gwinnett Chamber.

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

Nash works behind the scene and keeps quiet. She is no different in her goal to influence people like the rest of this BOC

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SabrinaWorks247 2 years, 4 months ago

Jace Brooks, who is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, just won the primary to replace disgraced former commissioner Shirley Lasseter, and will be the District 3 Commissioner. Jace served on the Suwanee City Council, which gives $25,000 per year to the Gwinnett Chamber. He also served on the GCVB, which gives $100,000 per year to the Gwinnett Chamber, was on the Gwinnett Chamber’s board in 2006 and was a member of the Partnership Gwinnett 1.0 Steering Committee and Implementation Committee. Alvin Wilbanks, the GCPS Superintendent, serves on the board of the Gwinnett Chamber. GCPS pays the salaries of Gwinnett Chamber employees with no contract, no minutes of any school board meeting where the payments were discussed, and no board vote to approve them. I received an email from GCPS saying that Superintendent Wilbanks has the authority to make those payments without board approval, even though a previous email said he discussed this with the school board and received their approval. When GCPS was asked if they planned to continue to pay Chamber employee’s salaries while teachers are being furloughed, class sizes are being increased and Superintendent Wilbanks and the school board complain publicly about budget woes, the answer was yes, so the payments are continuing.

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

and they all talk of transparency!! Can you hear me laugh out loud? This transparency they talk about it when it applies to everyone but themselves. This whole Gwinnett government is corrupt and dealing under the table to get things done. This poor economy has flushed out the rats for us to see. It's too bad voters are not smart enough to vote them out when they are exposed. That is why we are in this situation all the time. With so many Europeans, Asians, etc living in Georgia, they take no interest in politics except to vote their homeland's Liberal ideas in the U.S. It won't be long before we have riots in our streets, just like they do in their homeland.

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JohnCook 2 years, 4 months ago

To Fix "the system" WE Must Become "the system"

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

Nash was quoted as saying she will continue to donate $500,000 a year to them.

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SabrinaWorks247 2 years, 4 months ago

Jim Maran, the CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber, sits on the board of the GCVB, which gives $100,000 per year to the Gwinnett Chamber. Richard Tucker, the former CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber, also sits on the board of the GCVB, as does Bert Nasuti, the former District 2 Commissioner, who was the biggest proponent of taxpayer funding of the Braves Stadium. Preston Williams, CEO of the GCVB, serves on the board of the Gwinnett Chamber. Also serving on the board of the GCVB is Tommy Hughes, who described himself to a reporter as a close friend of indicted former BOC commissioner, Kevin Kenerly, and said of Kenerly, “Anybody that can win four terms of office in Gwinnett County, you’ve got to have admiration for that.” I could go on and on, but after researching all of this, I’m beginning to ask, “Who’s on first?”

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Mack711 2 years, 4 months ago

This sounds like the roster of the 'Fat Cat Club' and getting fatter.

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

time to stop this stupidity and elect new blood.

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pcjohn 2 years, 4 months ago

I knew the stench of Bert Nasuti was still in the air but I couldn't pinpoint its location. Thanks for telling me where he's currently befouling Gwinnett County.

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SabrinaWorks247 2 years, 4 months ago

ELECTED OFFICIALS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS: I am a grandmother with a laptop who spends 90% of my time out of town, taking care of sick relatives. I started asking questions in February. This is August and I have more questions than answers. If I can dig up information in a few minutes using only my laptop, why is it taking all of you so long to answer my questions? Given all of the deplorable scandals that have rocked Gwinnett County recently, are you completely tone deaf to taxpayers’ concerns, or do you understand why taxpayers wonder about the “insider trading” questions that arise from payments to the Gwinnett Chamber? Bless your hearts. I know you are busy, but I think you need to take a few minutes from your busy schedules to give Gwinnett residents some answers.

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

they will answer all right. They will tell you exactly what you want to hear and no more, especially the truth.

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neillrb 2 years, 4 months ago

I happen to know Sabrina personally and can testify to her honest and professional concerns over the management of our public affairs, both locally and nationally.

I find it a sad comment on our officials that they care so little about transparency and accountability to those who put them in office.

Sabrina, is a qualified accountant, and knows budgetary practices; I have to ask you - how can you ignore her concerns? Her questions list just gets longer with every evasive answer.

My only conclusion must be - you don't care what the public think.

Please prove me wrong. Please show you care - be accountable - or - we vote.

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STEVERAMEY 2 years, 4 months ago

Well, the one on the left was in the middle and the one on the right was on the left and the guy in the middle was on the right and the guy in the rear....? What kind of doublespeak is being used to confuse, baffle and misdirect the minds of the public regarding the use of taxpayer dollars. Citizens, if this is intentional you need to get worried and angry. Since we got rid of three Commissioners in about 18 months for what appeared to be inappropriate behavior (one pled guilty) I can only imagine what it must have been like before these rascals left. Now that the heat is turned up new distribution avenues of taxpayer dollars are being created to give the feeling of justifiable contributions. Always remember electeds are there to serve and not govern, rule or lord over the people in cities,counties, states or nation! You do have a voice at local meetings and at the ballot box. Be strong at the first and wise at the latter.

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

you must remember, when the BOC calls for public input, they already had their minds made up and you will most likely not persuade them to change their minds. Public input takes place because they are trying to show transparency only. We just had a chance to elect a District one commissioner who was never a politician, but a CPA, something that this BOC does not know about, debits and credits. What happened? People voted for another politician. This shows you how stupid the voters have become. They listen to what other people say and do little research on a candidate. Until voters get smarter, the taxpayer is left with politicians that will tell you what you want to hear and do what they want to do.

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JimmyOrr 2 years, 4 months ago

John, in response to your letter to the editor in today's (Sunday, August 5, 2012) Gwinnett Daily Post, I would ask you to take the time to access the archives of The Marietta Daily Journal and and pull up the article which appeared in "Around Town" Tuesday, June 5, 2012, entitled,"Eating Cobb's Lunch? FBI probe of Gwinnett's commissioners puts local talk in new light." The opening paragraph states, "COBB CHAMBER OFFICIALS and several commissioners and others in the local development community have warned for years that their counterparts in Gwinnett County were "eating Cobb's lunch" when it came to working effectively with local government officials to entice development. To hear them tell it, Gwinnett's closed-door set-up was the epitome of chamber-government cooperation." I surmise that your letter implies that when it comes to taxpayer dollars there should be full accountability and transparency. Therefore, if said closed-door set-up does exist in Gwinnett County government as per the aforementioned Marietta Daily Journal article, you are intent on doing your part to open those doors and let the sunshine in. James H. (Jimmy) Orr, Jr.

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STEVERAMEY 2 years, 4 months ago

Well the one on the left was in the middle and the one on the right on the left and the one on the right was in the middle and the guy in the rear.....? What kind of mind boggling, stacked deck, smoke and mirrors games are our elected playing? If there was nothing wrong with large donations being made to the Chamber then why is the commission attempting to create another avenue to make it more palatable to the taxpayers? Come to think of it, if taxpayers didn't get mad at the Commission for contributing tax dollars to a golf course why would they care about the Chamber? (Why did the county own a golf course anyway?) Oh, well back to the Chamber...it certainly looks suspicious when no one is willing to open the books. As someone said earlier I would like to hire those two employees paid for by the Gwinnett County Public Schools. If not, can I get just some DNA for cloning? We must always remember the elected were voted in to serve not rule, control and govern without accountability. We have removed 3 commissioners within the last 18 months or so. One resigned allegedly to avoid possible indictment, one is under indictment and the third pled guilt to fraud. Can you imagine what it was like "in the good ol' days" a couple of years ago? Two ways to avoid/control this behavior. One: attend local meetings regularly and be vocal! Two: be wise as to whom you are voting for! Steve Ramey

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pcjohn 2 years, 4 months ago

To SabrinaWorks247 - Thank you for your posts on this topic. I hope that some of the cud-chewing cattle who blindly reelect these dirty politicians will read your work and learn something. But, somehow, I doubt they will. You can fix ignorance but not stupidity.

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JohnCook 2 years, 4 months ago

Commissioner Heard, I appreciate the work of our Gwinnett Commissioners to shrink our government during a recession when many of our residents have been cut in hours or in wages. Your compassion and empathy is appreciated.

I still must ask, "What is our Gwinnett Commissioner's mission statement?" I would suggest that it should be: "As little as possible; Only as much as is needed." If that motto had been adopted years ago, Gwinnett's most embarrassing failures could have been avoided.

Another motto to remember: "Anything the government sticks its finger into will eventually suffer as a result of that finger." Therefore, government should leave to the people and to private enterprise anything that can be done by private entities. The businesses associated in the Chamber of Commerce managed to attract new business to Gwinnett for many years without taxpayer funds. Then they got lazy and developed a scheme to get taxpayer dollars. I asked the Financial Officer of Gwinnett Schools if the Gwinnett Chamber would continue to develop business in Gwinnett without diverting tax money from education. He would not answer the question.

In 2009, Gwinnett tax payer money was also going to more than a dozen charities. While charities perform needed tasks in our community, it is neither the responsibility nor the duty of government to force the widow in my neighborhood to contribute to the charities of the Commissioners' choice. You have a fiduciary responsibility to that widow and the many underemployed taxpayers in Gwinnett to not spend any more money than they would think is absolutely necessary.

The frills are nice, but let those who want the nicer amenities to improve quality of life raise the funds to pay for the things that are not absolutely necessary. About 20 years ago, parents in the Parkview community wanted soccer fields. They collected league fees, rented land across from Parkview High, graded and leveled the fields, and started a soccer association. People accomplish more with less than government can because government must comply with bidding and other transparency regulations.

Government does not create jobs. Entepreneurs and businesses create jobs. Use our tax money to address the real problems that we are not allowed to fix, stop heaping additional taxes, rules, and regulations upon us, and the community will be free to develop and flourish. Our Commissioners continue to address symptoms rather than the causes of those symptoms. That sort of grasping at straws will never accomplish good government.

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pcjohn 2 years, 4 months ago

@john cook - it is truly refreshing to hear words like yours. Not just the words of a true conservative (unlike most "republicans" here in Gwinnett) but the principles of a person who can reason. Well said, sir.

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kevin 2 years, 4 months ago

all these outfits are in a conspiracy to steal our tax money and the BOC fall for this to get votes. I can only imagine how much more is going on we don't read about. (thanks to GDP for that)

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JimmyOrr 2 years, 4 months ago

@John Cook. John, Sabrina Smith has an excellent post on the Dacula Patch entitled: Where are Gwinnett's leaders?" My question in the way of a reply would be, "What leaders?"

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motherinduluth 2 years, 4 months ago

Superintendent's response to the passage of ESPLOST: "In celebrating the positive outcome on November 8th, we extend special thanks to the citizens committee, headed by Sean Murphy and Mike Levengood, for leading the successful campaign for the sales tax extension. Thanks go as well to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, and the numerous community leaders and Gwinnett residents who helped promote passage of the education SPLOST."

Different SPLOST, but still taxpayer dollars being used for the promotion of taxes. The difference? ESPLOST passed last year so we will be paying that penny tax even though complaints abounded that the projects proposed were not appropriate and would each increase the GCPS annual operating budget. First thing they did (well, I guess it was second to paying the Chamber) was to take out a loan so they could start spending before it the money started coming in. Now that SPLOST revenue is so much lower than projections, what will happen now?

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pcjohn 2 years, 4 months ago

What will happen now?......Easy! Wilbanks will go before his captive audience of "conservative republicans" at the BOC and cry for more money. They will give it to him by raising school and other taxes. In a government by the crooks and against the people like we have in Gwinnett, the crooks never let one of their own down. Gwinnett's governing mantra is "Only We Know What's Good For The County; The Public be Damned".

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