Saturday, April 30, 2016

Infinite Energy Center (Gwinnett Center) Ups the Ante - Part 2 © 2016 by Phillip Evans

Trying to get information from the government is like pulling your own permanent teeth with a strand of dental floss. Not impossible, but rather difficult.

Link to Part 1.

April 13th, I submitted a Georgia Open Records Act request to the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau dba "Explore Gwinnett" to obtain any and all records related to the spending of almost $200,000 in tax-payer money for the purchase of metal detectors and other items for Infinite Energy Center's arena and theater. 

GCVB is Gwinnett County's official tourism organization, and manages Infinite Energy Center (a county owned property) at 6400 Sugarloaf Pkwy via an OMA (operating and management agreement) with the county, and is authorized by the county to collect and spend hotel taxes.

I expected there would be some meeting minutes, some emails, some bid documents, something, anything at all. The ONLY thing I received was a copy of the purchase order. 

Really? Was everything done verbally up to that point? Or was everything shredded except for the purchase order?

April 24th, I submitted an open records request to Gwinnett County. The files, "Gwinnett County Open Record Response April 24th, (pages 1 and 2)"  - {I renamed the original file and split it into two parts in order to convert it from pdf to jpg format} - detail my attempt to find out exactly:

1. How the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau came into existence

2. For what purpose it was created

3. What role, if any, the county played in its creation

4. What manner of oversight the county has over GCVB

5. Whether the county regards GCVB as a "government entity"

6. Whether GCVB must consult with the county before implementing any weapons policy

I got zilch from the county except for item #5. The county considers GCVB (Explore Gwinnett) to not be a public agency, as revealed in the response to item #1.

I suppose this means that GCVB is a private entity. So, a private entity is essentially in autonomous control of a major publicly owned property, and can collect and spend large sums of tax-payer money with no oversight from the county or any of its officials?

Surely there must be some accountability with the county, as two elected Gwinnett County Commissioners, Lynette Howard and Jace Brooks sit in on GCVB meetings.

Where is Gwinnett Commissioner Chairman Charlotte Nash on all this? 

She could resolve everything right now by demanding that GCVB simply follow state law, and allow legal carriers of weapons to be admitted to the arena and theater at Infinite Energy Center. 

Is Chairman Nash waiting for this to erupt into a lawsuit so that Gwinnett County can waste thousands more tax-payers dollars?

And what about GCVB CEO Preston Williams? Did he get a wink and a nod from Gwinnett County to violate state weapons preemption law at Infinite Energy Center? Or did he just do it on his own, knowing that the county has a hands-off approach with regard to what GCVB does? Who knows?

You can view the recent documents I have received by clicking anywhere here.

April 30th, I submitted another open records request to GCVB. 

Stay tuned for Part 3 which will have their response.

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