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Feds charge former Gwinnett planning commissioner with bribery

A file artist sketch of Mark Gary and attorney Paul Kish in federal court.

A file artist sketch of Mark Gary and attorney Paul Kish in federal court.

ATLANTA — Federal authorities have charged former Gwinnett County planning commissioner Mark Gary with bribery related to payments he allegedly offered to former commissioner Shirley Lasseter and her son, John Fanning.

Gary is the latest player named in an ongoing corruption probe into Gwinnett government officials. Lasseter provided information and secret recordings to federal investigators that served as a basis for charging Gary, Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Gilfillan said Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege that Gary gave $30,000 in gambling chips to Fanning at an out-of-state casino for votes in favor of a controversial solid waste transfer station in which Gary had a personal ownership interest.

That the payment was made in gambling chips and to Lasseter’s son was meant to mask the fact that she would profit from her vote in favor of the $4 million waste transfer station near Dacula, according to Gary’s charges.

Gary owns Noble Village, a retirement community, and has not served on the planning commission for several years. He worked to get Lasseter elected to Gwinnett’s highest governing body, and she appointed him to the planning commission almost immediately after taking office. Lasseter voted to approve the waste transfer station in April 2009.

Prior to that vote, Gary discussed paying Lasseter and her son as much as $100,000 for her approval, authorities said.

“Lasseter directed Gary to speak with and to provide the money to (her son) to conceal the purpose of the payment,” the charges read.

Ultimately, Fanning gave a portion of the $30,000 back to his mother and used some to purchase a vehicle, authorities said.

The waste transfer station in question involved land Gary owned at U.S. Highway 29 and Alcovy Industrial Way, next to a Stars and Strikes family entertainment business. It was never built.

Gary, who was released on $10,000 bond, is expected to plead guilty to one count of bribery in a hearing in front of a U.S. District judge. In an initial appearance Wednesday, he waived a federal grand jury indictment, essentially admitting to the charges. His attorney, Paul Kish, said the plea hearing could happen in the next week and as soon as Thursday.

Gary faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the felony charge.

Kish said he expects his client to be called upon to testify against others, but he did not elaborate when asked. Gary declined comment to reporters on the federal courthouse steps.

“There’s corruption in Gwinnett County,” Kish said. “Mark Gary is not the problem ... (he) made a mistake three years ago.”

Kish said Gary began cooperating with federal authorities as soon as they approached him, “and that will continue.”

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said her office will continue to pursue corrupt public officials and those in private business who try to pervert the system.

“Gwinnett County’s development decisions should be based on what’s best for the county, not who places the highest bet,” Yates said.

— Staff Writer Camie Young contributed to this report

Comments

Don 2 years, 3 months ago

One down and four to go ( Lassester, Fanning, Kennerly, Bannister). Let's hope Lasseter and Fanning get theirs today and nothing is held back, they need to get the maximum allowed by law.

Lasseter does not deserve a break just because she is old and served the public, what did she do that she was not caught for?

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Coolray 2 years, 3 months ago

There are a lot of nervous politicans in Gwinnett County today.

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R 2 years, 3 months ago

VERY Sadly, I think not...

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Mack711 2 years, 3 months ago

Shirley is not going down alone and that is a good thing. She is singing and everyone at that court house should be concerned, and the county . We have probably not heard the last of this, there are probably more to come. Let's hope so. Got to give her credit, she got caught and admitted she did wrong and saved the taxpayers a lot of money, unlike the others that got caught. That should have no bearing on her sentence.

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R 2 years, 3 months ago

NOT by the communication she sent out requesting character references where she stated she “was sorry IF she let anyone down”…

Seems if she really had taken responsibility, the text would have read

“sorry I LET you ALL down”…

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NewsReader 2 years, 3 months ago

Hahahahaha, and the saga continues....

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JRegan 2 years, 3 months ago

Let's not forget that we, the 800,000 residents of Gwinnett, are the victims and we will continue to pay the tax bill for their crimes for years to come.

I sure hope Judge Pannell took that into consideration for Lassetter's sentencing.

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Katrina 2 years, 3 months ago

So true! These people were supposed to be governing, not enriching themselves at our expense! I hope the judge doesn't feel sorry for her because of her age. I'm her age, and I don't think that gives me license to commit crimes!!

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champaignlady 2 years, 3 months ago

$30,000 would have gone a long way towards paying poor Shirley's mortgage. But I'm sure she blew through that paying for her hair color and manicures! Gotta look good while you are stealing from the taxpayers! This is beyond belief. I wish they would start searching and see just how many years this goes back. I bet it goes back at least 20 years. I'm also Shirley's age but don't think that my age or my health gives me license to steal. Throw the book at all the lying, cheating scumbags!

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JimmyOrr 2 years, 3 months ago

Jail'em all. The long and the short and the tall. Keep looking until you turn over every rock which those snakes of the two legged variety have been hiding under. Like JReagan stated in his post, all 800,000 of we citizens are victims and will continue to foot the bill for years to come for the unethical behavior by those in whom we put our trust.

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R 2 years, 3 months ago

“There’s corruption in Gwinnett County,” Kish said. “Mark Gary is not the problem ... (he) made a mistake three years ago.”

Yeah he needed to do business with a higher class of crook. 100K cut to 30K?

EBAY buyers beware!

But we all MUST remember, she wasn’t indicted by the GWINNETT Grand Jury…

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pcjohn 2 years, 3 months ago

You bet she wasn't indicted in Gwinnett. Our miserable DA, Porter, tolerates misdeeds of politicians and cops all the time. He's the "see no evil" monkey in Gwinnett.

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LoganvilleResident 2 years, 3 months ago

Actually pcjohn, when all of this began, it was reported that Porter requested the federal government to get involved in a criminal probe. Porter would have gotten a bad rap either way... If he found crime and charged everyone, they would have said he had a political vendetta. If he didn't find crime, he'd have been accused of being on board with them.

It is best that this was handled by authorities outside of Gwinnett county.

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pcjohn 2 years, 3 months ago

Maybe he requested the Feds because he didn't want to anger his dirty friends. Or perhaps a "conflict of interest"? Porter scuttled his own case against Bannister and let that dirtbag off to enjoy his retirement. Porter didn't go after the cops who deliberately tased a restaurant worker "for fun" which could be charged as a felony. Porter only acts "law and order" when he's got some low-level jerk in his clutches. Politicians and cops get a wink and nod for their misdeeds from this lousy DA.

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wally 2 years, 3 months ago

A slap on the wrist I tell ya,no justice here. There is no telling what else this woman did. She will probably be home by the end of next year. Then some of you fools can re-elect her. Be careful she is a crook, thief, and can be bought like a prostitute.

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pcjohn 2 years, 3 months ago

Why do you insult prostitutes by comparing them to Lassiter? At least prostitutes earn their money !

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Say_that_again 2 years, 3 months ago

Strange how crooks believe the old adage of "Honor among thieves"! Once again proves the dishonesty will not be honest with fellow conspirators. Shirley Lasseter should be required to pay a fine of at least 2.5 times the bribe as well as jail time - send a message - crime does not pay. Mark Gary should be required to pay $250,000 since he discussed giving $100,000 and be required to reimburse the county for his salary as planning commissioner since he obviously acquired the position through bribery. Convicting the scoundrels is one topic that liberals and conservatives obviously agree!

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teelee 2 years, 3 months ago

So is it really over now that the fat lady has sang? More to follow?

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wally 2 years, 3 months ago

Should we not give her a going away party? Of course at taxpayers expense. Cannot wait for the end of this story,there are some nervous folks out there today.

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roblotjr 2 years, 3 months ago

When are you prosecutors going to get Kenerly and all the other crooks and put them away? We're waiting to see some of the big fish go down, down, down.

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