Thursday, August 16, 2012
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Gwinnett Daily Post
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.