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STORIES OF THE YEAR: A look at Gwinnett's top headlines

Don Balfour, was indicted in November for his erroneous expense reports, but was found not guilty of 18 counts the next month.

Don Balfour, was indicted in November for his erroneous expense reports, but was found not guilty of 18 counts the next month.

» Balfour indictment, not guilty verdict

Gwinnett’s recent history has been marred by corruption scandals for years, but the swift trial of Sen. Don Balfour had a different ending in 2013. The Snellville politician, whose erroneous expense reports had followed him for months, was indicted in November, but found not guilty of 18 counts the next month. After calling the controversy politically motivated from the witness stand, Balfour’s suspension was lifted in time to return to the General Assembly for its session in the new year.

RELATED LINKS:

» Sen. Don Balfour acquitted of all charges

» Balfour to return to Senate after trial

» Sen. Don Balfour suspended from office

» Sen. Balfour booked into, bonds out of Fulton jail

» Balfour indicted on theft, false statement charges


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The five firefighters that were held hostage at gunpoint spoke to the media in April. Pictured from left are Jody Moss, Jason Schuon, Tim Hollingsworth, Chip Echols and Sydney Garner.

» Firefighters held hostage

A Suwanee man took five Gwinnett firefighters hostage in April for more than three hours and demanded that his utilities be turned on. Lauren Holman Brown, 55, died that evening following a loud explosion and an exchange of gunfire with members of a SWAT team. Brown faked chest pains to lure firefighters to his home, where six guns were found. Sgt. Jason Teague of the Gwinnett Police SWAT team had three surgeries after he was shot in the left forearm during the incident.

RELATED LINKS:

» Firefighters rescued, suspect dead in standoff

» Hostage taker was solitary man with unclear motives

» Firefighters, officer recovering from planned attack

» 911 call by firefighter hostage taker an eerie one

» Hostage firefighters ID'd, discuss suspect's motive


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Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Daniel Kaufman gives his inaugural speech to the membership in August. Kaufman left the Georgia Gwinnett College, which he helped build from an idea into a 10,000-student university in seven years

» Kaufman leaves GGC/takes over Chamber

While the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce board searched nationwide for a new leader, members found their answer quite close to home, naming former Georgia Gwinnett College president Dan Kaufman as the new Chamber chief in March. Kaufman left the Lawrenceville college, which he helped build from an idea into a 10,000-student university in seven years, to take over the post July 1.

RELATED LINKS:

» Kaufman takes helm of Gwinnett Chamber

» Kaufman leaving GGC to head Chamber

» College says farewell to Kaufman


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For more than 13 years, Dragon Con co-founder Ed Kramer avoided trial on child molestation charges out of Gwinnett County. On Dec. 2, the day jury selection was finally scheduled to begin, he entered a plea instead — and managed to escape serving any prison time.

» Kramer finally goes to trial — almost

For more than 13 years, Dragon Con co-founder Ed Kramer avoided trial on child molestation charges out of Gwinnett County. On Dec. 2, the day jury selection was finally scheduled to begin, he entered a plea instead — and managed to escape serving any prison time. Kramer, accused of molesting three young boys, was essentially sentenced to 34 months on house arrest to be followed by 15 years of probation. He was also ordered to pay $100,000 of restitution to each of his victims.

RELATED LINKS:

» Dragon Con co-founder Ed Kramer enters plea, will not go to prison

» Even under house arrest, is Ed Kramer a threat?

» A week into house arrest, Ed Kramer requesting more freedom


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Nancy Stanbery-Kellam was fired in June after years of controversies involving strategies to cope with dwindling budgets.

» Library director fired

After years of controversies involving strategies to cope with dwindling budgets, the Gwinnett Public Library board fired Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam in June. Fired without cause or explanation, Stanbery-Kellam was due to collect a year’s salary. After a nationwide search, former St. Louis library director Charles Pace is set to take the helm of the 15-branch system next week.

RELATED LINKS:

» Library director fired without cause

» Library director's email shows response to dismissal

» Charles Pace named Gwinnett library director


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The body of 10-year-old Emani Moss was found in a trash can outside her Lawrenceville apartment on Nov. 9. Police believe her father and stepmother, since charged with murder, had starved her and left her for dead inside a bathtub.

» Body of 10-year-old Emani Moss discovered

The partially burned body of 10-year-old Emani Moss was found in a trash can outside her Lawrenceville apartment complex on Nov. 9. Police believe her father and stepmother, since charged with murder, had starved her and left her for dead inside a bathtub, and further investigation produced documentation of a series of cries ignored by the state’s Division of Family and Child Services. DFCS is now headed for an overhaul — Gov. Nathan Deal has pledged millions of dollars and vowed to hire more workers, and at least six employees who had a hand in Moss’ case have been terminated or reprimanded.

RELATED LINKS:

» Changes continue in wake of Gwinnett child’s starving death

» Hints of abuse pre-dated 10-year-old's murder by starvation

» Parents charged with murder after girl's body found in trash


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The Pleasant Hill Road bridge over I-85 opened in June as a new diverging-diamond Interchange. It is designed to relieve congestion and improve safety.

» Diverging Diamond opens

Gwinnett’s traffic patterns took a twist, with the opening of the county’s first diverging-diamond interchange along Pleasant Hill Road at Interstate 85. The conversion of the bridge one June weekend shifted traffic to the opposite side of the road to allow for free-flowing turns on and off of the interstate. Also in 2013, construction began on a second diverging-diamond project at the Jimmy Carter Boulevard interchange with I-85. The bridge is expected to be converted in the spring.

RELATED LINKS:

» Drivers adjust to new interchange

» First diverging-diamond interchange to change traffic in Gwinnett


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Gwinnett voters continued to give overwhelming support to the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash (second from left) watches returns of the election with her husband Michael (left), Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Director Connie Wiggins and Commissioner Tommy Hunter.

» SPLOST passes

Just over a year after voters rejected a regional sales tax directed at transportation, Gwinnett voters continued to give overwhelming support to the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The majority of the one-percent tax to be collected over the next three years will be directed toward transportation projects, with county officials making headlines days before the November vote by setting aside $5 million to go toward an emergency alert system to help police in incidents at schools.

RELATED LINKS:

» Voters approve SPLOST extension in Gwinnett

» Could school safety bring votes for SPLOST?

» School emergency response system to be funded by SPLOST

» Gwinnett to devote 70 percent of sales tax program to transportation


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Lanier High School Resource Officer Rolando Jimenez was directing traffic in February on Buford Highway when a vehicle hit him. Following months of rehab, he hopes to return to work in the spring.

» School Resource Officer hit by car

Lanier High School Resource Officer Rolando Jimenez was directing traffic in February on Buford Highway when a Jeep Grand Cherokee barrelled into him and caused extensive internal bleeding, knee damage and a pelvic fracture. He lost 49 pounds in the recovery, but community support has been overwhelming for Jimenez and his family. He hopes to return to work full-time this spring.

RELATED LINKS:

» Resource officer hit while directing traffic at local school

» Struck officer recovering from surgery

» School officers' recovery reaches 4-month mark

» Lanier High school resource officer keeps positive attitude in recovery


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A $55 million, 92,000-square foot North Tower, which has three floors, includes advanced technology, a hybrid operating suite and 48 surgical beds opened at Eastside Medical Center.

» Eastside tower opens

Eastside Medical Center’s latest addition was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in January. The $55 million, 92,000-square foot North Tower, which has three floors, includes advanced technology, a hybrid operating suite and 48 surgical beds, said CEO Kim Ryan. Those “adjustable acuity” patient beds will have the added capacity to turn Eastside’s nine current operating rooms into 10 much more spacious, better equipped operating rooms.

The hospital has received clearance from the state to build up to six floors, and Ryan said officials would discuss expansion once it reached 80 percent capacity.

RELATED LINKS:

» Eastside unveils new state-of-the-art tower

» Eastside Medical nearing end of major expansion, renovation

» Eastside Medical getting new patient tower