Perdue appoints panel to review Kenerly indictment

Gwinnett residents soon will learn whether an indicted county commissioner will finish his term or be removed from office.

Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday appointed a three-member committee to review a felony bribery charge against Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, marking the first step in a process that could lead to Kenerly's suspension from office.

The charge stems from a special grand jury’s 10-month investigation of county land deals, which was preceded by an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that found irregularities.

Perdue appointed Attorney General Thurbert Baker, Cobb County Commissioner Tim Lee and Forsyth County Commissioner Charlie Laughinghouse to review the bribery charge.

The committee has up to 14 days to review the indictment and report to the governor. If it finds the charge relates to and adversely affects Kenerly’s office and adversely affects the public interest, it must recommend the governor suspend Kenerly from office. Perdue would make the final decision.

The grand jury recently indicted Kenerly on one count of bribery for accepting or agreeing to accept $1 million to secure County Commission approval of a land purchase. The grand jury also indicted Kenerly on two misdemeanor counts of failing to disclose financial interests in two properties the county rezoned.

Jurors found Gwinnett commissioners bought land to reward political allies and, in one case, to punish a rival. Taxpayers paid millions more than some properties were worth, according to the jury’s report.

Kenerly did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. He has denied any wrongdoing and has refused to resign. Kenerly did not seek re-election, and his term expires Dec. 31.

Perdue must decide whether it’s worthwhile to suspend Kenerly from office just a few weeks before he’ll be gone anyway.

Some Gwinnett residents said Kenerly should not finish his term, urging him to resign to restore confidence in county government.

The County Commission will meet next Tuesday and again on Dec. 14. Several groups have pledged to attend those meetings to pressure Kenerly to resign. The Georgia Taxpayers Alliance plans a protest before Tuesday’s 7 p.m. commission meeting.

The grand jury also considered a perjury charge against Chairman Charles Bannister but elected not to pursue it when the chairman offered to resign. Bannister stepped down Oct. 8.