Such envy takes on a different color today in the wake of Thursday’s abrupt resignation of Gwinnett Commissioner Shirley Lasseter in connection with her guilty plea that day to taking $36,500 in bribes. The ongoing corruption investigation by the FBI also snared her son and a businessman said to be her “bag man.” Moreover, Lasseter is the third Gwinnett commissioner to resign from office under a cloud in the past two years. Chairman Charles Bannister departed after a grand jury began looking into questionable land deals. Commissioner Kevin Kenerly did the same and was later indicted on bribery charges.
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates described the episode as part of “an ongoing effort to root out public corruption,” strongly hinting there is more to come. A Gwinnett grand jury has already concluded the county overpaid by millions of dollars for land acquisitions and that the beneficiaries had been friends and political allies of the commissioners.
So much for Gwinnett’s government-Chamber partnership being the “holy grail” of development partnerships. “Rotten to the core” might be more like it. It’s fair to say that a lack of governmental and public oversight of that setup is partly to blame for what went wrong. The debacle cannot be attributed just to the greed of those involved.
The Cobb Chamber’s ties to the county government and the county development authority have come in for their share of deserved criticism in recent years. Yes, we have had our share of problems here, but public corruption has rarely been one of them. Cobb’s saving grace has been the public’s insistence on accountability and transparency, buttressed by the vigorous use of the state’s Sunshine Laws by local media to make sure that was the case. It’s also fair to say that county, Chamber and business leaders involved in Cobb’s development through the years appear to have had a more refined sense of right and wrong than their counterparts in Gwinnett.
But what happened there should be taken as a warning of what can easily happen when powerful officials, unscrupulous developers, large sums of money and a lack of public oversight intersect.
COBB School Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa is not going to the Model Schools Conference in Orlando June 24-27. The MDJ’s Pete Borden incorrectly reported otherwise in his column last week.
But based on Hinojosa’s recent comments to the MDJ about how 90 percent of the system’s costs are personnel-driven, how $40 million will have to be cut from next year’s budget and the pressing need to find “a less costly model” for educating students; and based on reports that conference leader Dr. Bill Daggett offers radical new thinking on how to achieve that goal, perhaps Hinojosa should be going. Moreover, he should be going, rather than sending an army of 150 other Cobb educators down there.
That’s assuming, of course, that the conference is all it’s touted to be. We hope Daggett’s philosophy has more substance than that espoused by the star attraction of another conference that readers might remember. That would be the district’s 2005 decision under then-Super Joe Redden to send 54 staffers to Boston for a conference hosted by $8,000-a-day lecturer Alan November, who advocated “self-directed learning” and urged educators to let students learn by surfing the Internet.
His faddish philosophy boiled down to, as he put it, “Teach less, Learn more.”
MARIETTA lawyer Roger Plichta and sister, Sharon Quigley, an attorney in Chicago, attended an invitation-only reception and dinner with all nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Court building in Washington Tuesday evening in conjunction with their membership in the Supreme Court Historical Society. Around Town directed Plichta to pry hints from the nine on how they planned to rule on Obamacare. ... Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens of east Cobb will headline the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally at noon Friday in Athens. The event will aim at Obamacare’s mandate that all employers — including faith-based schools and hospitals — must provide free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans.
POLITICS: Kurt and Elizabeth Shreiner will conduct a fundraiser at their home from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday for Cobb Commission Chairman candidate Mike Boyce. … Jim Carroll, Don Westbrook and Bob Terrell will conduct a barbecue for chair candidate Bill Byrne from 5 to 9 p.m. June 14 at Carroll’s home, 453 Kelly Drive in east Cobb. ... The Cobb Civic Coalition will present a forum for Cobb Commission chair candidates from 7 to 9 p.m. July 10 in the Commissioners Meeting Room, 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta, reports President Ron Sifen.
SICK BAY: The Rev. Sam Storey, senior associate pastor emeritus at First United Methodist Church in Marietta, was admitted to WellStar Kennestone Hospital on Sunday suffering from severe pain in his hip and leg, and some chest pain. He underwent a heart catheter procedure May 23-25, the latest of more than a dozen heart-related procedures in the past two decades.
BRETT BITTNER, who will run unopposed after qualifying last week for the Ward 1 seat on the Marietta School Board vacated by incumbent Logan Weber’s move out of state, is believed to be just the third member of the Libertarian Party to hold office in Georgia. Bittner is the executive director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia and, among other things, argued on local TV last fall in favor of an “Open Borders” policy between the U.S. and Mexico.
Bittner is no stranger to Marietta politics. He serves on Marietta’s Historic Board of Review, having been appointed by Ward 1 Councilwoman Annette Lewis. And is he vice president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, which is fighting the TSPLOST.
Cobb’s and Georgia’s best-known Libertarian Party member is — or was — former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Marietta, who after losing his congressional seat was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president in 2008. But Barr lately seems to be back in the Republican fold, having given strong consideration earlier this year to running in the Republican Primary against northwest Georgia U.S. Rep. Tom Graves.
SPEAKING of our Southern border, the Rev. Jeff Jones, pastor of the Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation and an occasional MDJ letter writer, will head to Agua Prieta, Mexico, just over the border from Douglas, Ariz., for 10 days later this month to minister to Mexicans recently deported from the U.S.
IF MAYOR Steve Tumlin has his way, Marietta will soon join Cobb County among the first government jurisdictions in the country to employ U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE, program. The program goes beyond using the federal E-verify system to check immigration status of employees in participating governments. The Cobb Board of Commissioners passed an IMAGE agreement with ICE on May 29. It submits the county to initial audits and inspections of its employment procedures, but the county is then exempted from additional government audits for two years if there are no problems.
Cobb is the first county in Georgia and one of 10 nationally to take part in the program.