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Wednesday February 10th, 2016 3:50AM

Ex-Gwinnett leader describes bribery as common

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - A former Gwinnett County commissioner who will soon start serving a jail sentence for accepting a bribe from an undercover FBI agent said in an interview that she believes bribery was a common practice.

Shirley Lasseter told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that shortly after she took office in 2009, a developer offered her $100,000 for a vote on a waste transfer station that he wanted to build. Lasseter said the developer told her that was the way business was done in Gwinnet.

The former official said other developers also told her that making illegal payments to government officials was common in the county. She said developers reported making payments to other county commissioners, planning commissioners and zoning board members.

"They all said, 'This is the way you do business in Gwinnett County,'" Lasseter said. "I definitely feel like it was (the way business was done) for years."

Lasseter would not say which developers and officials were supposedly involved in the bribery. She said she had no personal information about any current Gwinnet officials who accepted bribes.

Charlotte Nash, the chairwoman of the county commission, disputed that bribery was normal in county.

"I have never thought that bribery of officials was a normal way of doing business in Gwinnett, and it is certainly not the way I approach my role as commission chairman," she said.

Lasseter resigned her office and pleaded guilty to accepting $36,500 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman who wanted her vote on a real estate development. She has been sentenced to 33 months in prison.

Lasseter's son, John Fanning, and Hall County businessman Carl Cain have also pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme and to drug charges. Developer Mark Gary has pleaded guilty to bribery for paying Lasseter and Fanning $30,000 in casino chips in exchange for her 2009 vote on a waste transfer station he planned to develop.

Gary told a judge this month that Lasseter asked him to develop the waste transfer station project and later asked him to pay her $30,000 in exchange for her vote. Lasseter denied it, saying Gary approaching her son in 2009 and offered $100,000 for her vote.

Gary's attorney, Paul Kish, said his client stands by his statement in court.
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