Sunday, April 12, 2009

State Sanctions Lifted During City/County Service Negotiations

Late Thursday afternoon, Gwinnett County received an order from the judge presiding over the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process between Gwinnett County and Gwinnett’s cities over the Service Delivery Strategy. The order lifted state sanctions against these local governments while in mediation. The current 10-year strategy, as set forth in state legislation that became effective in 1999, expired Feb. 28. Missing the deadline for a new 10-year strategy with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs placed Gwinnett and each of its cities in an “unqualified status.” The sanctions resulting from the unqualified status could have resulted in the loss of state administered financial assistance, grants, loans or permits to Gwinnett County and Gwinnett’s cities.

Superior Court Judge David E. Barrett, chief judge of the Enotah Judicial Circuit signed the order holding sanctions in abeyance during the mediation process. “The judge’s action allows us to work towards a long-term and equitable service delivery solution for every resident in Gwinnett County without the cities or county losing much needed immediate funding and state permitting” said Jock Connell.

A March 3 order holding sanctions in abeyance during the mediation process was opposed by attorneys representing Gwinnett’s cities because it was not signed by the out-of-circuit judge assigned to the case and it was vacated. “Because this new order was signed by the out-of-circuit judge presiding over the ADR process, we expect this order to remain in place through mediation,” said Commission Chairman Charles Bannister. “Holding the sanctions in abeyance is allowed under Georgia law and the judge’s ruling is a win for all sides during these challenging economic times.”

The process will now move forward without the specter of unqualified status clouding the service delivery issues. The mediation process will begin at 10am on April 22 in the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center auditorium with a meeting between the governing bodies of each Gwinnett city and the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.
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