Breaking News

Man found dead at Duluth apartment complex April 19, 2014

0

CLINE: Hotel proposal should be a "no-brainer" but isn't

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

Public relations-wise, it's clear what Shirley Lasseter's recent guilty plea to federal bribery charges did to Gwinnett's Board of Commissioners. The paint-them-all-with-the-same-brush mentality is as understandable as it is unfair.

But coming after previous BOC black eyes -- the resignation of then-Chairman Charles Bannister and bribery charges against former commissioner Kevin Kenerly -- you can't blame citizens for their lack of trust.

Building that trust will take time, but you've heard that after the fallout from each of the previous issues. The old saying goes: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." But three times? Maybe it's time to invent a new saying. And to quit playing the fool.

With that said, the BOC can't let those black eyes keep it from moving forward, albeit in a more cautious manner. That caution showed during Tuesday's meeting when the subject turned to a proposed hotel that would be located at Gwinnett Center. Preston Williams, CEO of Gwinnett Center, called the possibility of bringing a 300-room, full-service Marriott to the center a "no-brainer."

But it's not that simple. Not when the BOC is under such scrutiny, Not when the Lasseter case is still so fresh. And not when Commissioner John Heard was hired as a consultant by Chuck Thakkar, the developer who submitted the proposal.

There really are no "no-brainers" these days for the BOC.

Earlier this year, Heard, an architect, notified officials about the consulting job and then resigned as a member of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau board because of it. Heard did not attend Tuesday's briefing on the issue and has said he would not vote on the matter. But his fellow BOC members are understandably gun shy, wanting to properly vet the situation.

Said Chairwoman Charlote Nash: "We want to make sure that we can comfortably assure ourselves that there was no impropriety in the project. We all are very cognizant of the need to be totally transparent in any project."

Nash also asked that Thakkar, who works for Nilhan Hospitality, submit a letter attesting that no commissioner would profit from the decision. And Commissioner Mike Beaudreau asked for a timeline showing Heard's involvement in the deal. Heard previously said he was paid "in the $100,000 range" for his consulting work.

Because of Heard's involvement in the deal and the BOC's past sins, what appears to be a no-brainer is anything but.

The shame of it is, it is a good deal, one that would benefit the Gwinnett Center, that area of Duluth and the county as a whole. Nilhan has $57 million in financing already lined up, and the project would bring 210 jobs directly to the community and $71.2 million in county, schools, hotel and sales taxes over the next 30 years, according to a consultant.

That's a lot of benefits for the county. But before the BOC can vote "yes" it must make sure it doesn't also come with a lot of benefits for one of its members.

That part really is a "no-brainer."

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.

Comments

Karl 1 year, 10 months ago

Todd, you said, "That's a lot of benefits for the county. But before the BOC can vote "yes" it must make sure it doesn't also come with a lot of benefits for one of its members."

But Heard has ALREADY benefited from this deal, to the tune of over $100,000. Why are you posing the question as though it is a possibility? It is a benefit that he has already received, the only question which remains is "Is the BOC going to give the final pay-off to Heard's employer to complete this smarmy deal?"

0

R 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe it’s TOO narrow a letter concerning who benefited(s).

Perhaps we should verify that family relations are also NOT receiving directly or by employment over the next 5 years? Contracts and contests include relation type legal bars all the time.

I mention this, because going back to the transfer station at Beaver Ruin Road and the LLCs involved about that time, I seem to recall some other eyebrow raisers in those projects that were not DIRECTLY benefiting a commissioner, but family by marriage?

0

Nadlej 1 year, 10 months ago

It appears you omitted tha fact that 50+ % (30M) is Federal stimulus $$$$$ that the US taxpayer would have to borrow to fund this project. Not sure why we think that is ok.....hopefully you have no children because they will be paying off the greed of this generation for a long time.

0

rco1847 1 year, 10 months ago

Todd, I will not support another Tax, Levy, Splost, penny, nickle or dime in the hands of our commission. They have more resignations-in-disgrace than they have completed terms. It's like handing you wallet to a would-be mugger before he demands it. The Mariott is either run by unscrupulous people who like to deal with crooks or they live in a vacuum and haven't heard the news about our crop of elected criminals. It would be nice if we had a two party sustem. They tend to keep an eye on each other and give voters a bigger poole to chose from but that'll never happen in this brain washed place.

0

rco1847 1 year, 10 months ago

Todd, I will not support another Tax, Levy, Splost, penny, nickle or dime in the hands of our commission. They have more resignations-in-disgrace than they have completed terms. It's like handing you wallet to a would-be mugger before he demands it. The Mariott is either run by unscrupulous people who like to deal with crooks or they live in a vacuum and haven't heard the news about our crop of elected criminals. It would be nice if we had a two party sustem. They tend to keep an eye on each other and give voters a bigger poole to chose from but that'll never happen in this brain washed place. It won't be long before I'm outta' here .

0

Sign in to comment