New Gwinnett District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson and Solicitor General Brian Whiteside have agreed to pay fines to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission for campaign violations.
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Gwinnett DA Patsy Austin-Gatson, Solicitor General Brian Whiteside agree to pay fines for campaign violations
New Gwinnett District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson and Solicitor General Brian Whiteside have agreed to pay fines to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission for campaign violations, according to an attorney for the commission.
Austin-Gatson has agreed to pay a $2,500 fine to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission for two state campaign law violations. Meanwhile, Whiteside has reportedly agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for five violations stemming from missing campaign contribution and personal finance disclosure statements.
The commission took up consent orders against Austin-Gatson and Whiteside at its meeting on Thursday.
One of the violations against Austin-Gatson stemmed from an allegation made by former District Attorney Danny Porter, whom Austin-Gatson defeated in November. It involved Austin-Gatson’s husband, Travis, handing out her campaign business cards to a judge and other officials while picking up a search warrant in Hall County in August. Travis Gatson is an investigator in Whiteside’s office, and Austin-Gatson also worked in that office until her election as district attorney.
The other violation stems from an allegation the commission’s investigators found while they were investigating the claims made by Porter. Austin-Gatson was accused of attending a criminal justice event at the state Capitol last year and engaging in campaigning while she was there.
Commission attorney Joe Cusack said she did not take leave to attend the event in a campaign capacity and, therefore, was campaigning on county time.
“This was an inadvertent situation,” Austin-Gatson’s attorney, Andy Morgan, told the commission. “Mrs. Gatson believed that since she is a salaried employee and was normally able to make up time for work during the day during after hours, she thought it would satisfy the requirement, She understands the violation and is therefore accepting the consent order as currently presented. (It’s) the same thing with her husband, who happened to be overzealous ... It was an unfortunate situation. He recognizes that as well and accepts the order.”
The fine will be paid by Austin-Gatson’s campaign.
Meanwhile, the campaign finance commission’s staff filed a complaint against Whiteside, saying he had not filed five campaign contribution disclosure reports. Three of those reports were due in 2018 while the other two were due in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Even after candidates are elected, they must still file campaign contribution disclosure reports in non-election years under state law.
The exact due dates for each of the missing campaign contribution disclosure reports are:
♦ March 31, 2018
♦ Oct. 25, 2018
♦ Dec. 31, 2018
♦ June 30, 2019
♦ June 30, 2020
“He’s also required to file a personal financial disclosure statement since he is an elected official, a locally elected official,” Cusack said. “In this matter, he has not filed in the years that covered 2018 and 2019, so there’s two of those personal finance disclosure statements that have not been filed.
“In this matter we have seven total violations of the Campaign Finance Act for those failure to file the campaign contribution disclosure reports and personal finance disclosure statements.”
Cusack said Whiteside represented himself in the matter and has told him that he would personally pay the fine. The commission did not hear from Whiteside directly at the meeting.
HomeFirst Gwinnett plans to begin opening warming station on freezing nights
HomeFirst Gwinnett announced this past week that, starting Monday, it will start opening its doors as an overnight warming station when temperatures approach freezing levels.
The shelter, which is located at HomeFirst Gwinnett’s Norcross Assessment Center, operated as a warming station one night early last month. It was the only warming station open in the county that night. It now plans to continue doing so whenever temperatures are expected to drop below 35 degrees.
“Over the holidays, we took some time off to review our operating procedures to make sure we are offering the very best service that we could to our unsheltered neighbors,” shelter director Brandee Thomas said.
HomeFirst Gwinnett officials are aiming to announce warming station openings three days in advance, with openings to be announced at facebook.com/HomeFirstGwinnett. Volunteer opportunities and items needed to support the warming station will also be announced on the Facebook page.
This past week’s announcement to continue warming station operations came days after Gwinnett County commissioners adopted a $1.91 billion 2021 budget that included funding to operate additional warming stations in the county.
When HomeFirst Gwinnett opened a warming station at the shelter on Dec. 8, officials said at the time that it could accommodate 20 individuals.
Under the organization’s new plan, the shelter will be open on a first come, first served model from 6 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. Face masks will be required and social distancing is practiced at the shelter because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The shelter will provide masks to people who need them.
People who stay at the warming station will have access to food, beverages and showers at the station.
HomeFirst Gwinnett’s Norcross Assessment Center is located at 5320 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, and the warming station’s entrance will be located at the back of the building.
Anyone who would like to inquire if the warming station will be available on a particular night can call 770-847-6765 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, or 770-371-1067 after hours.
Gwinnett County man charged with carrying unlicensed gun, unregistered ammunition at U.S. Capitol on Wednesday
A Gwinnett County resident was among the people arrested during the melee where protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Capitol police announced on Thursday that they arrested Buford resident Grant Moore and charged him with carrying a pistol without a license and unregistered ammunition.
After a rally in support of President Donald Trump, people protesting his loss in the 2020 presidential election stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday as Congress was meeting to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory. Members of the Senate and House of Representatives were evacuated as protesters overran Capitol security.
One protester was able to make it onto the floor of the Senate, some protesters were able to gain access to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office and there was an armed conflict between protesters and security at the door leading to the floor of the House of Representatives’ chamber.
Four people reportedly died during the fracas, which some elected officials have said was tantamount to an attempted insurrection.
Family announces Yellow River Game Ranch founder Art Rilling has died
The man who gave Gwinnett County its first attraction, the Yellow River Game Ranch — which served as the home of Georgia’s famous groundhog, Gen. Beauregard Lee — died earlier this week.
Lilburn resident Art Rilling died Monday at the age of 92, according to his obituary. A retired Marine Corps colonel who was on active duty in the 1950s and early 1960s, followed by 17 years on reserve duty until 1979, he was known to generations of Gwinnettians for operating the Yellow River Game Ranch on U.S. Highway 78.
He ran the game ranch from 1962 until he sold it to employees in 2013. The ranch closed in December 2017, but was bought by new owners and re-opened last year as the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary after an extensive renovation at the property.
“We started in 1962 and there wasn’t anything like this,” Rilling told the Daily Post in 2017. “The insurance companies, the state agencies, everybody didn’t know what to do with us because they didn’t have a pattern of what they had to do last time, so they figured out the worst scenario and said ‘OK, here is what you have to do.’
“Over the years, they’ve let up on that kind of thing and found out deer won’t eat you up and the buffalo weren’t going to bother you.”
Rilling’s funeral service was held Friday at the Tom M. Wages Snellville Chapel with a video of the service available at bit.ly/3osLqRz.
The Marine and wildlife refuge owner was born in San Antonio on June 23, 1928. His family said in his obituary that he got the inspiration to start the Yellow River Game Ranch from his grandfather. When Rilling was young, his grandfather would bring wild orphaned animals to San Antonio.
“Friends would gather in awe as they viewed native animals that they had never seen,” Rilling’s obituary states. “This was the seed that inspired him to start the Stone Mountain/Yellow River Game Ranch, allowing children to experience being up close to animals, from the woods and farms native to Georgia.”
Rilling attended San Marcos College, now known as Texas State University, and married Barbara Evarine Martin. They remained married for about 60 years and had three children. He also taught high school.
The Marine Corps transferred Rilling and his family to the Atlanta area in 1956. It was after he got out of the Marines that he opened the Yellow River Game Ranch, which moved to its eventual location on U.S. Highway 78 in 1983.
“The Game Ranch was his chosen life,” Rilling’s obituary states. “He welcomed school groups, tourists, locals, as well as many nieces, nephews, and local high school students for summer jobs. All received more knowledge than money.
“The Game Ranch and its animals were used in movies and commercials, including the movie ‘Deliverance’ and the ‘Today Show.’ The most famous resident was a Groundhog named General Lee. He was awarded the title of the official weather prognosticator. His predictions were observed by many in this country and several others.”
The ranch was a petting zoo featuring a wide variety of animals, but it also served as a home to animals who had been injured or neglected.
But, the ranch faced criticisms from animal rights group, PETA, in its later years before it closed. The group criticized the ranch for keeping the animals in enclosed areas.
Rilling, however, said the animals rights groups did not understand the conditions the animals were in when they arrived at the ranch when he talked to the Daily Post about the attraction’s closing in 2017.
“(Animals rights advocates) think you’re exploiting the animals putting them up there like this and not letting them run free and so on,” he said at the time. “The fact that the animal is not capable of making it in the real world because he was hurt, or somebody caught it and tried to make a pet out of him and it didn’t work” is not considered.
He once recalled a time when the ranch received an unusual squirrel — unusual because someone had thought they could domesticate it before it was eventually donated to the ranch.
“Normally we just turn them loose — but this one thought he was half people,” he said in 2017. “You’re walking down the trail and a squirrel comes and jumps on your shoulder, well obviously that’s not something you’re expecting. So you either swat at the squirrel or look for help.
“We had to take him further out in the woods where he wasn’t close to people.”
Even though he was no longer officially involved with the ranch after 2012, he supported the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary that replaced it. Sanctuary co-owner Jonathan Ordway, who bought the ranch with his wife Katy after it closed, said he was in regular contact with Rilling during the renovation.
The Ranch’s founder got to see some of the Ordways efforts, including the construction of a new, significantly larger natural bear habitat, first hand.
“Art came out every few weeks or I’d at least talk to him on the phone asking questions,” Orway said.
Explore Gwinnett Executive Director Lisa Anders said Rilling spent more than 20 years on Gwinnett’s tourism board and was a member emeritus who rarely missed a meeting.
“He was quite simply a lovely person — funny, charming, kind, dedicated to animals, passionate about the Game Ranch for 30 years and supportive of all tourism efforts,” Anders said. “He put General Beauregard Lee — and Gwinnett — in the spotlight every February.
“But, all that aside, I will miss seeing his smile, getting a hearty hug and hearing his stories. (He was) a great man.”
Outside of the ranch, Rilling got married for a second time, this time to Suwanee resident Daphne Roos, a decade ago.
In addition to running the game ranch, Rilling was also a member of Gwinnett Chamber, the National Buffalo Association and sat on on boards of several companies, according to his obituary.
The family is asking that donations be made to Wounded Warriors Project or Toys for Tots in lieu of flowers.
Gwinnett libraries switching back to curbside pickup for books because of COVID-19 — again
As COVID-19 cases spike again in Gwinnett, the county libraries are preparing to switch back to curbside service only to keep patrons safe while still providing access to materials.
The library system announced the switch to curbside service will begin Monday and continue “until further notice.” The library system previously operated on a curbside service system, which means the insides of the buildings themselves will be off limits to the public but patrons can pick up materials they have placed on hold at the entrance, during the height of the pandemic last spring. The system then briefly switched back to it again later on when numbers began spiking again in the summer.
“We know that the pandemic has affected our lives in a very unexpected way,” Gwinnett County Public Libraries Executive Director Charles Pace said. “This decision has been carefully considered. Our priority has always been the safety and security of our customers and staff. Our desire is to continue providing our services to the community in the safest and most effective way possible. We understand that our curbside and digital services are critical to the community as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times.”
Curbside services will be available from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and noon until 5 p.m. on Sundays. Library users can have items placed on hold for pickup by calling 770-978-5154, sending a text message to 770-450-5305 or visiting www.gwinnettpl.org. Spanish speaking library patrons can call 855-938-0434 to receive assistance.
Library officials said students and other customers can also receive assistance to access digital resources by contacting the library system.
“In order to appropriately maintain social distancing, customers will be requested to approach the main door and a library staff member will gather their information and will then bring the materials to a table that will allow them to have contact free service,” library officials said in a statement. “All other physical services will remain suspended, and the buildings will not be open to the public until further notice. Digital services will be available at all times.”
The period for which books will be held is being extended to 10 days so patrons will have more time to pick up their books.
The switch to curbside service will not stop free drive-through food and meal distribution at the Dacula and Norcross branches on Tuesdays until May, according to the library system. Passport services will continue at the Buford branch, but only by appointment and anyone who wants to make such an appointment will have to contact the library system to do so.
“All GCPL digital services will continue being available to the public, including children’s storytime videos, book author online discussions, and cooking demonstrations,” library officials said. “Also, Virtual Book-a-Librarian service allows customers to have a video conference appointment with a librarian; and, Tutor.com learning suite provides students with online tutoring, homework help, and test preparation.”
The library system has provided additional information about curbside pickup, in case anyone has any questions about it, at www.gwinnettpl.com.
As of Thursday, Gwinnett County had a two-week COVID-19 incidence rate of 821 new cases for every 100,000 residents. Gwinnett leads the state in total cases with 55,999 cases reported since March, as well as 571 total confirmed deaths, 39 probable deaths and 3,967 total hospitalizations.
Georgia Speaker David Ralston raises possibility of removing elections functions from Secretary of State's Office
A day after protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. over President Donald Trump’s election loss, Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston said he expects election reform will be one of the top issues taken up by the state General Assembly this spring.
Ralston met with reporters at the Capitol on Thursday for a pre-session media availability ahead of the opening of the 2021 legislative session, which begins on Monday. The speaker talked about issues he believes will come up this year, including election reform.
A major bit of news to come out of the meeting with reporters was Ralston’s announcement that he plans to form a special committee to look into election reform. But, one of the biggest items is that he raised the possibility of removing elections functions from the Secretary of State’s Office and creating a new chief elections officer position to oversee all elections-related matters in the state.
“I proposed the Tennessee model for selecting a (legislature-appointed) secretary of state (and) we’re going to talk about that, have a discussion about it,” Ralston said. “I’m not wedded to that only. I’m also now looking at possibly taking the elections function out of that office and doing a chief elections officer, which would not require a constitutional amendment, so that there is some more accountability there.
“I know the secretary of state, and I heard people say, ‘Well, he’s elected.’ Well, he is, but you know I think members of the legislature have a unique perspective on the views of the people of Georgia.”
Elections are expected to be a major issue that the Republican-controlled General Assembly tackles after outgoing Trump lost the state and then made claims of widespread election fraud.
Trump is the first Republican to lose Georgia to a Democrat in a presidential race since former President George H.W. Bush lost the state to Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. Trump has repeatedly claimed that he did not really lose the state, however, and a recording surfaced last weekend of a phone call during which he could be heard telling Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse his loss in the state.
Raffensperger and other officials from his office have repeatedly refuted Trump’s claims of widespread fraud in the state.
The speaker said whether he believed fraud occurred didn’t matter in the debate.
“It’s the perception that people have (of the election),” he said. “Let’s look at the facts here. The fact are we’ve had three recounts, we’ve had an audit. We’ve had more than six — I’ve lost count, I know of at least six — lawsuits that have been filed, all of which have been dismissed, which kind of begs the question, ‘Well, if there were in fact significant wrongdoing, would it not have been disclosed?’
“But, people are concerned and I think we have to speak to those concerns, but I think we have to tell them the truth and I think they have not been given the truth all the time on this.”
Ralston said elections in Georgia should be open, but he did not rule out the chance that the House will look at no excuse absentee by mail voting, which surged in popularity in Georgia in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans in the Georgia Senate have talked about doing away with no excuse absentee-by-mail voting all together, but Ralston seemed to shy away from supporting that, saying he’d need to see a good reason for doing that.
Georgia’s no excuse absentee-by-mail system was set up by the Georgia General Assembly in 2005. The speaker pointed out Republicans were in power in the legislature at that time.
“We might look at tightening up some of the, and maybe categorizing some of the reasons (for casting an absentee ballot), but I want elections to be open,” Ralston said. “But I want them to be fair and I want them to be secure.”
But in light of Wednesday’s events at the U.S. Capitol, Ralston expressed confidence in security on staff at the state’s Capitol in Atlanta, addressing whether he felt the “Gold Dome” would be safe during the session.
It will be, he said as he talked about fencing that had already been installed around the Capitol before Wednesday as well as the state troopers who work at the building.
“We’ve got great security here,” Ralston said. “I mean the members of the Georgia State Patrol are among the best in the country. They’re professional, they’re top rate. We will have them here staffed up as well as the Capitol Police.
“And, I’m sure, God forbid that should we need it, we’ve also got National Guard units that we can utilize.”
Some items Ralston said he would like looked at include addressing mental health and getting dyslexia labeled a learning disability for students in Georgia’s schools.
He said would also like to see the state’s amended appropriations bill dealt with quickly just in case the legislative session in interrupted part way through, as it was in 2019, because of COVID-19.
Gwinnett tag offices will close Jan. 12 for week-long, statewide system upgrade
Gwinnett County residents who have to renew their vehicle license plates the week of Jan. 11 will need to complete that business in person by Monday, or online by Tuesday night.
Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter's office issued a reminder this week that the county's tag offices will be closed from Tuesday until Jan. 18 because of work being done on Georgia's motor vehicle system.
The system will be shut down while the work is being being done — which means tag renewals can't be processed — so tag offices won't reopen until 8 a.m. on Jan. 19.
“We’re down to the final few days for residents to obtain tags and titles before the state updates its system,” Porter said. “I encourage all January birthdays to renew online now, the safest renewal method. If an in-person visit is required for title work, be sure to check wait times in advance at GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com/wait.”
Although the offices will close after Monday, the latest date that someone can renew their tag online or at a tag renewal kiosk is 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The tax commissioner's office announced late fees will be waived until Feb. 7.
Runoff results show overwhelming support for Warnock, Ossoff in Gwinnett
A look at the results from Tuesday’s runoff election shows weeks of campaigning in Gwinnett County, including an appearance for former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro designed to generate support in the Latino community last month, appears to have paid off for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
“We were told we could not win this election,” Warnock said in a virtual broadcast of a statement delivered Tuesday night. “But tonight, we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”
An examination of the runoff between Ossoff and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and the runoff between Rev. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, also R-Ga., is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. While the Ossoff-Perdue runoff emerged from what had been a three-man race in November, the Warnock-Loeffler matchup emerged from what had been a 21-person field until two months ago.
Perdue and Loeffler conceded to the Democrats later in the week, ending the likelihood of the election being drawn out by legal wrangling, as was the case in the November presidential election.
Ossoff improved his standing against incumbent U.S. Sen. David Perdue in Gwinnett by more than three percentage points from what he got in the Nov. 3 general election. In both cases, Ossoff won Gwinnett — a traditional Republican stronghold for decades that has increasingly flipped to Democrats in recent election cycles.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the results from Gwinnett showed Ossoff got 60.09% of the votes cast in county during the runoff. In November, he got just 56.8% of the votes cast in the county.
Statewide, Ossoff pulled ahead of Perdue in the extremely tight runoff results with some ballots still being counted on Wednesday. He was declared the winner by CNN and other media outlets later on Wednesday.
“I am honored — honored — by your support, by your confidence, by your trust, and I will look forward to serving you in the United States Senate with integrity, with humility, with honor and getting things done for the people of Georgia,” Ossoff said in a televised statement on Wednesday. “Thank you so much.”
Meanwhile, Warnock and Loeffler each saw a bigger share of the Gwinnett pie simply by no longer having to share it with 19 other people. As was the case in November, however, Warnock held a large lead in the county.
In fact, Warnock appears to have done better in Gwinnett — albeit slightly better — than Ossoff did, mirroring statewide results. The results also appear to show that a large number of voters who casts ballots for someone other than Warnock or Loeffler in November swung toward Warnock this week.
Warnock received 60.61% of the Gwinnett vote on Tuesday, up from 35.5% in November. Loeffler earned 39.39% of the county’s vote, which is up from 22% in November.
Loeffler’s increase of 17.39 percentage points for her showing in the runoff is just shy of the cumulative total of 18.23% of Gwinnett votes that went to other Republicans — mainly former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins — in the first round in November.
The Gwinnett results show that Perdue did not increase his standing the county from Nov. 3 and that the absence of Shane Hazel — a former Republican who ran as a Libertarian in the Nov. 3 election for this seat — on the runoff ballot may have solely benefited Ossoff in Tuesday’s election.
In fact, Perdue’s share of the vote in Gwinnett appears to have dropped slightly in the runoff.
In the Nov. 3 election, Perdue got 40.55% of the votes cast in Gwinnett. In the runoff, he got about 40.1% of the county’s votes.
The results in the Senate runoff races tell what has become a common story in election results in Gwinnett in recent elections: The bulk of remaining Republican support in the county is concentrated in north Gwinnett — including Suwanee, Sugar Hill, Buford and Braselton — with two branches of support stretching from that area south into Auburn, Dacula and unincorporated areas north of Lawrenceville.
There are also two main pockets in Snellville and Peachtree Corners. There were also scattered precincts, mainly spread out across the unincorporated area between Lilburn and Snellville and one precinct in the Duluth area, that went for Republicans in the election.
The only real difference between the Ossoff-Perdue race and the Warnock-Loeffler race is that Warnock picked up some of the precincts between Snellville and Lilburn that went for Perdue in the other race.
Color-coded maps showing which precincts went for Democrats and which went for Republicans from November and Tuesday do show Democrats are making inroads into north Gwinnett along the Interstate 85 corridor, pushing into the Hamilton Mill area.
The map for the Ossoff-Perdue runoff race is consistent with the map from the Nov. 3 election in terms of who won each precinct.
The runoff map for the Loeffler and Warnock race, however, shows that without 19 other opponents on the ballot, Loeffler was able to pick up three precincts — one north of Lawrenceville, one in Duluth and one southeast of Lilburn — that Warnock had won in November.
Gwinnett commissioners approve county's $1.91 billion 2021 budget
With three new members joining the board for the first time on Tuesday, Gwinnett County commissioners tackled their first big task of the year and adopted the county’s $1.91 billion 2021 budget.
The budget — which was designed to have flexibility for the new commissioners, including new Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson — includes some changes since it was presented in November by former Chairwoman Charlotte Nash.
Two notable changes were the addition of $200,000 for a performance audit and another $200,000 to fund warming shelters if they are needed.
The audit, in particular, is a step the commissioners wanted to take to give them a lay of the land so to speak, particularly since the majority of board is made up on freshman commissioners.
“It’s really a performance audit which will include an audit of the (county’s) spending,” Hendrickson said. “It really just provides us a benchmark to be able to build from so that we know what our starting point is before we decide or determine to allocate any additional funding or resources to other areas.”
The commissioners are coming in with a bit of an odd situation. The county’s government is set up so that the annual budget is adopted by commissioners at the first meeting of the year, but it is drafted during the previous year.
In this year’s case, that meant an outgoing chairwoman had to oversee the compilation of the budget, but it had to be approved at the first meeting under a new chairwoman’s watch. In fact, Tuesday was the first meeting ever for three-fifths of the Gwinnett County commission.
“It may seem like a heavy lift for our first meeting, but this is how it’s written in the enabling legislation,” new Commissioner Kirkland Carden said.
To accommodate that change, Nash had Commissioner Marlene Fosque, who was the vice-chairwoman last year and is in the middle of her term of office, help with preparing of the proposed budget. Nash and Fosque also worked with county staff to build in flexibility so that there is money available in a fund for the new commissioners to take on projects of their own choice — such as the audit or the warming shelters — so they can have more time to have a say in which projects are funded by the county this year.
“There was flexibility in the budget, which we appreciated,” Hendrickson said.
A couple of other items added into the budget were a deputy clerk position in the Clerk of Courts office, a program coordinator position for Family Treatment Court and Juvenile Court and an update to the Water and Sewer Fund to reflect a recent issuing of bonds. In all, the budget includes 62 new positions, which includes 39 public safety and courts positions.
The commission’s new chairwoman said the audit will be far reaching and look at dollars that flow out of the county government to other bodies or organizations as well.
“This is also going to include our subsidies and the funding that we give to the libraries and all of the other entities that receive funding from us,” Hendrickson said. “It really is about benchmarking where we are.”
In other business, the commission voted to keep Fosque as the board’s vice-chairwoman for 2021.
Gwinnett schools employees could soon get vaccine survey
Teachers and other employees in Gwinnett County Public Schools could soon be asked if they want to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available to them.
Educators are part of Phase 1B of vaccine distribution that Gov. Brian Kemp announced last month. That means Gwinnett educators could begin receiving the vaccine by the end of this month.
But, the district first needs to see who wants it, and a survey that could go out to all district employees. Gwinnett County Public Schools Associate Superintendent for School improvement and Operations Steve Flynt said earlier this week that the survey could have gone out by Friday, but district officials announced after the Daily Post's printing deadline on Tuesday that the release of the survey was now likely to go out next week.
“We want to get that approved by the health department because we want to make sure we ask the right questions so they have all of the information they need,” Flynt said earlier this week.
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
Flynt said the district will get its vaccine supply from the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments, who will in turn get the doses from state health officials.
“The health department is responsible for securing them and then providing them to us,” Flynt said. “We’ll actually have a plan for distribution and share that. We’re working with the health department on sharing the survey results and then our plan for distribution.”
The district’s plan for distributing the vaccine is currently in development in concert with officials from the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health District. After the district completes its survey of employees, it will work with health officials to determine which employee classifications in the district will immediately be eligible to get the vaccine based on state criteria.
Flynt said the school system began working with the health department on a distribution plan as soon as officials learned educators were in Phase 1B — which they found out through the governor’s announcement last month.
“They said (distribution could begin) as early as the third week in January, so I’m assuming sometime after that point,” Flynt said.
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