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Posted: 6:34 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, 2012
By Kerry Kavanaugh
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. —
Political scandal in Gwinnett County is casting a shadow over a plan to build a four-star, multimillion-dollar hotel. The $57 million, 300-room Marriot Hotel is designed to connect to the Convention Center on Sugarloaf Parkway. But on Tuesday, county leaders cautioned they cannot move forward until they are certain there is no risk to the taxpayers and that the deal is free from any impropriety. We attended a county briefing today where supporters told commissioners the hotel will boost business and the tax base, without any public financial risk. "We've got a real opportunity here," said Preston Williams, with the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau. Today we met the local investor, Chuck Thakkar, who is footing the entire bill along with investors of his own. "We have been working on this project for five or six years and very rarely something where a win-win is so obvious," Thakkar told the board. But commissioners had several questions for the latest development plan that on paper that looks too good to be true. "It's not just for the benefit of the commissioners, it's for the benefit of the public as a whole," said Nash, Gwinnett County commission chairman. The public is now on the hook for the Gwinnett Braves Stadium that hasn't generated the money to pay for itself. Then, there's the parade of Gwinnett County commissioners who left office amid bribery scandals involving land deals. "We want to make sure that we can comfortably assure ourselves that there's no impropriety in the process," Nash said. Nash asked for signed statements from all involved guaranteeing that no county official is financially benefiting from the deal. Commissioner John Heard has already recused himself from any hotel discussions after acknowledging he's done work for a consulting firm tied the project. Because that leaves only three commissioners to vote on this proposal, it will require support from all three to pass. There is no vote scheduled at this point.
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