Smith, chairwoman of the citizen watchdog group Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government, filed the lawsuit in November 2012, claiming that the chamber’s economic development arm commingled public and private funds and illegally denied her written requests to learn more about how taxpayer funds were being spent. The partnership began in 2007. McClurg told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she thinks the county and school board are using the money to pay for political campaigns led by the chamber, such as support for a 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects.
Officials involved in the effort insist they are being transparent. In May 2013, they voluntarily provided the AJC with records showing how much county money was spent. They also provided the AJC with a list of contributions from other public entities — about $85,000 from nine cities in 2012.