The recent special Grand Jury report has certainly created more than the normal interest in the workings of the Gwinnett County government. Some are interested in looking into the past through the creation of land purchase task forces, the removal from office of an indicted Commissioner, etc.

While this might uncover more questionable behavior on the part of elected officials and staff, it would be of little value in moving the county forward. I, for one, would prefer that all this pent-up energy be spent on creating the necessary changes to prevent these situations in the future.

My early support of a significant increase to the chairperson’s salary was based on attracting higher quality candidates for the special election next March. Since none of the sitting, un-indicted commissioners had the courage to bring the issue to the November 16 Commission agenda, I expect the voters will get the usual suspects as candidates (4 candidates who ran for office in the last election cycle and lost, one retired administrator and one law enforcement officer – inspired leadership). While disappointing, it simply means a different approach is required.

So, we need to involve the Gwinnett Delegation of the Legislature in the solution and I would suggest going for a long term solution rather than a short term pay increase. Since the Grand Jury’s report was issued I have had conversations with a number of residents and have gotten varying degrees of support for a total restructuring of the BOC. Here is what I would suggest:

1. Increase the District Commissioners from 4 to 5. The growth in the county has caused the workload to become a problem for part-time commissioners. Going to 5 commissioners would parallel the Board of Education structure and reduce each commissioner’s workload by 25%.

2. Add 2 new At-large commissioners. The issues that the southern part of the county is struggling with are far different that the northern portion. So I would suggest a Northern District Commissioner and Southern District Commissioner. The Grand Jury was critical of “District Courtesy” and suggested it be eliminated. I think it is virtually impossible to eliminate something that does not exist on a formal basis. The addition of a second commissioner (and a second planning and zoning representative) involved in every planning/zoning and land purchase decision would greatly reduce the future chances of the alleged activities of Commissioner Kennerly and Chairman Bannister. The simple reality is every Commissioner cannot have intimate knowledge of every P & Z or land deal issue and they will continue to rely on the judgment of Commissioner in whose district the issue resides. Having more than one Commissioner involved will reduce the chances of illegal and/or unethical behavior.

3. Eliminate the Chairperson’s position. Annually the 7 Commissioners would elect one of their own as Chair and Vice-chair for purposes of setting the meeting agenda and running the actual meeting. No consecutive terms would be permitted which would minimize the possibility of the kind of vendetta as the Grand Jury report noted between Beaudreau and Bannister.

4. Establish a Board-appointed CEO position as an ex-officio member of the Board. The person would be a public administration professional and be compensated at a level equal to the Gwinnett Superintendent of Schools. The person would be given a 5 year evergreen contract with the standard criminal and morals out clauses so as to indemnify them from the political whims of the elected board. The establishment of this position is far different than a County Administrator and would eliminate the need for that position. The CEO would have 3 deputies – Finance, Public Safety and Services/Administration as direct reports with all department heads reporting to one of the 3 deputies.

There are additional changes that I personally believe need to be made at the staff level as a result of the Grand Jury report, but those are best left to the new CEO. However I do think that this will go a long way to addressing the very disturbing conclusions of the Grand Jury’s investigation.
You may not believe in these recommendations and have other ideas to move Gwinnett forward. It’s time to bring them to the table is the perfect clearing house.

No longer residing in Gwinnett County puts me in the position of not having a dog in this hunt. However having lived in the county for more than 33 years, I have many friends and acquaintances who continue to reside in Gwinnett. I also know how great Gwinnett once was and believe that it can return to that level of attractiveness with the right leadership and organization. It’s time to quit looking in the rear view mirror and start looking out the windshield.

Patrick T Malone is a former Snellville resident and the Senior Partner of The PAR Group, an international training and development firm based in Atlanta and may be contacted at .

Patrick T. Malone is the co-author of the new book Cracking the Code to Leadership and a Senior Partner at The PAR Group, an international training firm headquartered in Atlanta.

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Patrick (14 Posts)