Approximately 33 individuals were named in the special grand jury’s report on several land deals in which the County Commission overpaid, sometimes by millions, and often to benefit a friend or political crony of one of the Commissioners.
Those individuals were to be given an opportunity to contribute a statement or response which would be added to the report prior to its release. On Tuesday, however, Superior Court Judge Michael Clark reversed his order sealing the report for 1o days when it was leaked to the news media the day before. As a result, the report that was published on Tuesday included none of the named individuals’ responses.
The following is District 2 Commissioner Bert Nasuti’s addendum to the report. Nasuti, a bankruptcy attorney who served two terms on the Commission, did not seek reelection this year.
Addendum to Grand Jury Report Submitted by Bert Nasuti
I took the job of the Grand Jury very seriously. I was never disrespectful of the Grand Jury, or the tasks they undertook, in or out of their presence. To the extent the Grand Jury interpreted my view of their tasks any differently, those impressions are incorrect.
Much of the information in this report, regarding the specific history of certain property purchases and the parties involved, is the first time this Commissioner was made aware of said information, notwithstanding the fact that career, senior department head level employees of Gwinnett County, as well as possibly another Commissioner, were fully aware of the information while the transactions were being discussed, negotiated, and eventually closed. The fact this information was not provided to this Commissioner, verbally or otherwise, is regrettable.
The Grand Jury makes note of the workloads of District Commissioners and the lack of communication between staff and the Board. County staff apparently told the Grand Jury information provided to the Board was adequate. Not one of the properties involved in the investigation were located in my District nor brought before the board by myself. Staff was asked questions about each purchase – questions came from different Board members and were usually along the lines of “Does this purchase fit within the long range plan” or “Will this purchase fit the need within a particular area” and in many cases “do you support this purchase”. There was not even one instance when staff did not support a purchase or for that matter, even intimate that maybe it wasn’t a good purchase choice, wasn’t a good use of taxpayer funds, or that the staff may prefer another location.
The Grand Jury takes issue with the Board’s reliance upon staff yet notes that the overall workload of part-time Commissioners makes independent research and review of many board decisions, impossible. The end result is that the board’s reliance upon the opinions of executive level professionals was and is necessary and reasonable and routine in government administration . As you might expect, the decisions made relying on the staff opinions could only be as good as the information provided – which it turns out, was incomplete, inaccurate, and sometimes possibly not disclosed.
The Grand Jury is to be commended for its work and recommendations. Its suggested remedial measures should be considered and implemented by the board to the extent their authority allows, with consideration given to the legislature considering an expansion of the board structure as well.