Solid Waste Corruption in Gwinnett County?

A federal corruption probe and a developer charged with bribing a county commissioner, who already resigned, admitting it; all that plus drug dealing, nepotism, perjury, cronyism, and at least one prison term, in Gwinnett County. This AJC story has a quote by VSU alumnus and current ADS rep. Steve Edwards.

David Wickert wrote for the AJC 8 September 2012, Widening probe stains Gwinnett reputation,

New details of a federal investigation paint a troubling picture of corruption deeply embedded in Gwinnett County—allegations that may undermine the county’s previously sterling reputation as an economic dynamo.

Bribery allegations have now embroiled two county commissioners, a planning commissioner and a zoning board member….

One of Lasseter’s first acts upon taking office in January 2009 was to appoint Gary — a longtime friend — to the Municipal-Gwinnett County Planning Commission, which would pass judgment on his development plans, including the waste transfer station off Winder Highway.

More dominoes in the federal corruption probe began falling last week, when prosecutors filed a bribery charge against developer Mark Gary. They say Gary paid Lasseter and Fanning $30,000 in casino chips in 2009 for Lasseter’s vote for a waste transfer station Gary wanted to develop. Gary is expected to plead guilty to the bribery charge and is cooperating with investigators.

One of Lasseter’s first acts upon taking office in January 2009 was to appoint Gary — a longtime friend — to the Municipal-Gwinnett County Planning Commission, which would pass judgment on his development plans, including the waste transfer station off Winder Highway.

“I thought it was a conflict of interest, him being there and having applications at the same time,” said Hastings, who served on the commission with Gary. When the transfer station came up for review, the planning commission was unable to make a recommendation because Gary and two other commissioners abstained.

The Board of Commissioners approved the project 3-1 in April 2009, though it was never built. Gary’s alleged payment to Lasseter and Fanning came that June.

Another company, Advanced Disposal Services, tried and failed in 2004, 2006 and 2007 to win commission approval for waste transfer stations the county’s planning staff supported.

But the company apparently lacked what Gary had: Close ties to county commissioners.

“It’s almost like the people that abide by the rules and try to do things the right way don’t win,” said Steve Edwards, Advanced Disposal’s Georgia marketing manager. “The people that bend the rules, they’re the ones that wind up winning.”

None of that could ever happen around here, right?

Let’s hope not:

Gwinnett’s fall from grace has been fast and dramatic….

Jeffrey Finkle, president of the International Economic Development Council, said corruption can scare off business prospects if it’s pervasive.

“I could point to small communities where you didn’t know where you could find an honest official in town,” Finkle said. “Those are the cities that are going to be routinely skipped by everybody.”

One result was many county commissioners got voted out in Gwinnett County. Hm, didn’t that happen here in Lowndes County after the County Commission approved Sterling Chemical locating here? The VDT reminded us of that 19 December 2010,

…citizens are tired of being told what’s best for them, having no say so in how their tax dollars are spent, and having their concerns ignored.

Why is the Lowndes County government wasting taxpayer money suing a local business trying to put it out of business for the benefit of a company owned by investors in New York City? After the VDT reported after last year’s County Commission Retreat that

Commissioners decided that getting out of the “trash business” was best and that a non-exclusive agreement with current curbside pickup companies (which about 12,000 citizens already employ) would provide service without putting any people out of business.

Maybe if the County Commission ever held public hearings before they made decisions regarding closing their former waste collection sites, as state law appears to require them to do, maybe we the people and the taxpayers would know. Since they didn’t, we may have to make up our minds anyway.

-jsq

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