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Nash tackles corruption issue

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash gives the Annual State of the County Address on Jan. 16, 2013.


Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash addresses the crowd during the Annual State of the County speech on Wednesday at the Gwinnett Center.

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash addresses the crowd during the Annual State of the County speech on Wednesday at the Gwinnett Center.

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State of the County Address - 2013

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash gives the Annual State of the County Address on Jan. 16, 2013.

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash gives the Annual State of the County Address on Jan. 16, 2013.

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Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson congratulates Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Charlotte Nash on a job well done after she delivered the annual State of the County address at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth Wednesday.

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Gwinnett County elected officials applaud after the Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Charlotte Nash delivers the annual State of the County address at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth Wednesday.

DULUTH — Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash faced the county’s reputation of corruption head on in her annual State of the County speech Wednesday, in an effort to “turn the page” on the ordeal.

“I am appalled to hear Gwinnett County and corruption mentioned together,” said Nash, who joined the board after a special grand jury’s land investigation led to the public disgrace of two commissioners but faced the issue again when a commissioner pleaded guilty in a federal bribery probe last year. “Wrongdoing by leaders hurts the community, breaks the public trust and embarrasses all of those who call Gwinnett home.”

Nash pointed to changes in the county’s ethics and land purchase laws during her time in office, but said commissioners will keep working to restore trust with citizens.

“We know that we’ll have to work hard to overcome this, and we’ve taken steps to do just that,” she said. “Ultimately, it will be our behavior over time that will help us regain the community’s trust.”

This year, she said, the board will continue to try to restore public trust by hosting town hall meetings. Plus, commissioners approved a new lead investigator for the district attorney’s office, added specifically to root out corruption among public officials. She also noted the new non-profit entity created to keep public dollars separate and transparent in the Partnerhips Gwinnett economic development initiative.

Local businessman Raymer Sale said he appreciated the chairwoman tackling the issue head-on.

“She’s covered the past and how they are going to keep things above board in the future,” Sale said. “We know we’ve got a challenge. ... (With work) there’s no chance repeating the past errors.

Nash said the most recent chapter in Gwinnett’s history has been marred by an economy that lead to a dip in revenues to 2005 levels.

But she pointed to successes including the continued Triple-A bond rating, the negotiated settlement of a long service delivery dispute with cities and the completion of the Sugarloaf Parkway extension and opening of two new parks among many highlights..

“So yes, the good far outweighed the bad in 2012,” she said, adding that she and her fellow commissioners — the most senior of whom has two years on the board — are “ready to begin a new chapter.”

In 2013, she pledged a focus not only on public trust but continuing to manage through a difficult economy, pursuing economic development, planning for a November sales tax referendum and working to protect the county’s water supply at Lake Lanier.

“Gwinnett has always been a can-do community,” Nash said. “We work together to solve problems. Private citizens volunteer their time to help government set priorities. We listen to each other. We reach agreements on the best way to proceed. And we follow through and deliver on our promises.”

Businessman Bill McCargo, who co-chaired a civic engagement project to help reduce government spending several years ago, said after the speech that he agreed that county leaders have done a lot to right their woes.

“We have had issues, but we have an incredible, competent professional staff that has kept the tiller going for the county, even through the tough times,” McCargo said of the county’s budget problems.

He said he trusted Nash, who not only served as a former county finance staffer but served on his Engage Gwinnett committee, to find the solutions.

“She is the right person for the job because she understands all the details,” he said. “She’s guiding the community through a rough time in a very competent way.”

To the more than 500 business and civic leaders in attendance, Nash said residents and leaders should get involved and help the government “turn the page.”

“I love this county, and I intend to keep the oaths I swore as I took office,” she said. “The district commissioners and I are committed to ensuring that Gwinnett County government does its part to keep this community great.”

Comments

kevin 1 year, 3 months ago

“Wrongdoing by leaders hurts the community, breaks the public trust and embarrasses all of us who call Gwinnett home.”

I guess we need to start calling "corrupt" the fact this BOC, including Nash, can't balance a budget without raising taxes. I can't raise my income but they expect me to raise my tax spending. What a bunch of hypocrites!

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Why_not 1 year, 3 months ago

No one likes to see an increase in property taxes, including myself. I spent the first 40 years of my life in a rural North Ga county that had taxes that weren't much lower than Gwinnett but very few county services in return. There will always be unforeseen situations in dealing with a budget for a county the size of Gwinnett. Everyone wants a good police force and they want to know that a fire engine is there as soon as they call for one, they want clean safe water, nice roads and all the other amenities that we have grown to expect. All this comes with a price. Let one of these needed services drop below what we are used to and the outcry would be deafening. Short of laying off badly needed personnel or slashing services, a small tax increase will be necessary from time to time. For me, it's a small price to pay to ensure that our county services are maintained.

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R 1 year, 3 months ago

"and all the other amenities that we have grown to expect."

Funded at a time of unprecedented growth and this is where the reductions MUST come...

Businesses expand and vertically integrate, until they LOSE the anticipated cost efficiencies and THEN return to the CORE functions.

That is the discussion yet to be had, WHERE is GWINNETT currently involved that it should/could WITHDRAW?

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Why_not 1 year, 3 months ago

What "core functions" do you feel we should keep and which ones should we eliminate?

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kevin 1 year, 2 months ago

The population is shrinking with the housing problems and government just won't stop growing. When revenues fall, you drop the expenses. Simple, you have to cut more until things turn around. Isn't that what is expected of everyone else or do you just keep charging on credit cards fro a while? Many in Gwinnett re seniors and others who work are on fixed incomes. Tell them your story.

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R 1 year, 2 months ago

The "Core" – Police, Fire, EMS, Zoning/Land Use, Courts. Hold Library at "current" level near term

So here are a few of the Others for “constant” level or announced 4 year reduction path to exit FROM:

Trash Program

Chamber of Commerce support from multiple county government entities. (Make it one BIG bucket - not 25 little ones...)

Park expansions IE Cell tower lawsuit

AGGRESSIVE Sell off of County owned UNUSED land parcels.

Liquidation of CoolRay Field interest.

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BuzzG 1 year, 2 months ago

The county government has been growing faster than the population has. It is time to tame the beast. Say no to spending.

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Why_not 1 year, 2 months ago

If our county government can be trimmed anywhere concerning personnel, I would say its at the top. I would venture to say that each department is top heavy when it comes to the ratio of mangers to employees. The people that actually do the work are stretched to the limit. As far as the corruption issues, Charlotte has her work cut out for her to turn the image around....I hope she can accomplish it. Maybe those days are over for us. We can hope anyway.

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Don 1 year, 2 months ago

R- the way I see it is the trash program should be bringing the county about 2 million per year. Yes I do not agree with it but is should be a real money maker!

I never agreed with the stadium deal but how much can we afford to write off. Bond issue was for 30 million and then the 20 million we gave to fund this. No one in their right mind would offer more than 10 million for the stadium, we are stuck with it.

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kevin 1 year, 2 months ago

I am sure the trash program has hidden agendas in it and Nash is NOT being transparent about it. Ask her this question, for which she has never responded. How much rebate and discounts is the county sucking in from the trash haulers that we don't see? When asked about giving the homeowners the rebate for recycling, there was no response. We pay out annually and the county pays out less on a monthly basis. I willing to bet they don't send a whole year's money that they county collects from us directly to the trash haulers at one time.

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