Governor to appoint panel to review Kenerly indictment

Gov. Sonny Perdue next week will launch a process that could lead to Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly’s removal from office.

As soon as Wednesday, the governor will appoint a committee to review a bribery indictment against Kenerly. If the committee recommends suspension, Perdue must decide whether to remove the commissioner just weeks before his term expires at the end of the year.

Perdue’s office has received about 60 phone calls and about 25 letters and e-mails from Gwinnett residents asking him to suspend the commissioner.

Bert Brantley, the governor’s spokesman, said Perdue will take those comments into account in considering Kenerly’s fate.

“For someone to take the time and make their input known, it absolutely is something that you recognize and you appreciate,” Brantley said.

Last month a grand jury indicted Kenerly on charges of accepting or agreeing to accept $1 million to secure the County Commission's approval of a land purchase. It also charged him with two misdemeanor counts of failing to disclose financial interests in two properties the county rezoned.

Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter forwarded the bribery charge, a felony, to the governor late last month. Under state law, Perdue must appoint a three-member committee to review the charge.

The law requires the governor to wait 14 days to appoint the committee. The waiting period is supposed to give Kenerly a chance to voluntarily authorize the governor to suspend him.

Kenerly told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently that he plans to finish his term, which expires Dec. 31. He said he will be exonerated of the charges.

He did not respond to requests for comment last week.

Brantley said the governor’s office has received no indication that Kenerly is willing to step aside.

The two-week waiting period expires Tuesday. Brantley said Perdue could appoint the review committee as soon as Wednesday.

Under state law, the committee has up to 14 days to report to the governor. If it finds the bribery charge relates to and adversely affects the administration of Kenerly’s office and adversely affects the public interest, it must recommend the governor suspend him from office. Perdue would make the final decision.

Since 2003, Perdue has suspended eight locally elected officials under indictment.

Kenerly has served 16 years on the commission and did not seek re-election. If he is suspended, his term wouldn’t be cut short by much. Because of the holidays, the commission has condensed its six remaining meetings for the year into two days: Nov. 16 and Dec. 14.

Some Gwinnett residents have asked Kenerly to resign for the good of the county.

Bob Griggs, who runs the TalkGwinnett political website, has encouraged his readers to e-mail the commissioner. He said about 250 people have asked him to resign.

“You’re an embarrassment to all Gwinnett County residents,” Ilse Edwards of Duluth wrote to Kenerly in a recent e-mail.

That sentiment is not universal.

“I hate to see him crucified in the paper by those people who can only see the bad side of someone, and he hasn’t even been convicted,” said Richard Beaton, who lives in the Hamilton Mill area.

Beaton is trying to build a restaurant and hotel in Gwinnett that he said could provide up to 800 jobs. He said Kenerly has helped by speaking with potential investors.

“A number of us out here think fondly of Kevin and what he’s done for the county,” Beaton said.