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Group questions school board funding to Chamber

SUWANEE -- A government watchdog group took its plea to keep taxpayer funding from the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce to the local school board Thursday.

Sabrina Smith of Citizens for Responsible Government asked for a stop to the payments of $150,000 a year, which the school board gives to fund two economic development positions as a support for the hailed Partnership Gwinnett program.

While leaders say the coalition of public and private groups has brought thousands of jobs to the community, Smith said the taxpayer dollars should not be used for lobbying. The group first made waves about the six-year-old partnership last month, just before voters went to the polls to vote on a controversial regional transportation sales tax, supported by the Chamber.

"We'd like you to consider moving that money to the classroom, where it belongs," Smith said at Thursday's school board meeting.

In a press release, she added that the group's work has led to an attorney general investigation into possible violations of open records and open meetings law. She said the Financial Review Division of the Georgia Department of Education has decided to look into the propriety of the school system payments, which total $900,000 over six years.

Gwinnett schools officials have said the program helps fund education programs by boosting the county's tax base.

Two weeks ago, Gwinnett Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the county intends to continue its $500,000 contribution to the partnership, although leaders have agreed to create a separate Partnership Gwinnett entity to segregate the funds from the Chamber's other functions.

Comments

JohnCook 1 year, 8 months ago

This certainly has the appearance of money laundering. State law prohibits any government entity from advocating for a referendum for a SPLOST from which they benefit. I attended a public meeting in November in which an employee of Progress Gwinnett and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce advocated for passage of both the Transportation SPLOST and for the Education SPLOST. The Gwinnett County Government would have benefited from the Transportation SPLOST and the Gwinnett School System benefited from the Education SPLOST. Isn't it convenient that the Chamber invented a solution so both government entities could give money to the Chamber for a purpose other than advocating for passage of these SPLOST issues while the Chamber did the advocating "dirty work?"

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NewsReader 1 year, 8 months ago

Perhaps if the school board focused funneling the money to "educate" instead of acting like a PAC, they wouldn't have a need to concern themself with a charter school amendment. You can place that right up there on the same pedestal as the $4M+ suit filed against Ivy Prep, another ESPLOST to cover the shortfalls of the previous ESPLOST I, II, III...X, XI, XI...(like multiple parts of a bad Friday the 13th Series), bond referendums to cover the shortfalls of ESPLOST, TADs, that absurd lease and subsequent purchase of the ISC facility (you know, that huge aircraft hanger of an administration facility) and other such fiscal nonsense. They haven't squandered enough of the taxpayer's money.

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

We started asking questions 6 months ago about why GCPS has been paying chamber salaries since 2007. GCPS claims it is a good investment because they have received $6 million in return for the payments. Open records requests show there is NOT ONE SHRED of documentation in their files to support that outlandish claim. If GCPS was only interested in making an investment with education dollars, why did they decide to fund chamber salaries instead of buying a McDonalds franchise? How did the school board decide that investing in chamber salaries was a wise use of education funds? There are no minutes of any meeting where this was discussed, even though GCPS released a statement saying Wilbanks discussed this with the board and they approved it. If paying the salaries of 2 chamber employees did return $6 million, why don’t they pay the salaries of 10 chamber employees and get $60 million? You would think that if this investment had honestly done what GCPS claims, they would be bragging about it instead of refusing to answer questions. All parents of GCPS students should ask their school board member to explain why education dollars are paying chamber salaries instead of educating their children.

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

If you would like to evaluate the records and decide for yourself if your tax dollars are being used properly, go to the website at www.GwinnettPetition.com .As long as you remain quiet, the school board will continue to spend your money in this outrageous manner.

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SabrinaWorks247 1 year, 8 months ago

GCPS is not the only Gwinnett organization giving tax dollars to the chamber. The county, the cities, the Gwinnett Conventions & Visitors Bureau, and the CIDs have all given to the chamber. The chamber claims they have brought 280 businesses to Gwinnett, created 12,000 jobs and generated $800 million of economic activity. In numerous meetings, telephone calls and emails from elected officials, we have been promised records that would support those claims. Six months later, we are still waiting. Why are there no records to CLEARLY show what taxpayers got for the millions paid to the chamber? Why are WE the ones asking? Why didn't our elected officials REQUIRE this information before now? Is it acceptable to give taxpayer money to the chamber when they cannot prove what they did in return? If GCPS cannot prove they got $6 million for paying chamber salaries, why are they still doing it? If the chamber cannot prove their claims, why don't they repay the taxpayers' money?

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kevin 1 year, 8 months ago

more tax money from Gwinnett BOC down the tube. How is this for transparency Ms. Nash? No wonder the school system is crying. $500,000 a year for lobbyists.

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Gwinnettsince1991 1 year, 8 months ago

The Superintendent of GCPS has gone so far as to proclaim himself a CEO, just like the business world. I guess he has to pay to attain this title.

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