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McDONOUGH, GA-Gwinnett County elected officials have suspended all land purchases by the county after the state attorney general’s office ruled the county’s secret votes on transactions for the past 15 years violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act. Commissioners maintain the closed session votes protect taxpayers from overpaying on property deals.

The county’s action comes after receiving criticism on several recent transactions it completed without first announcing the deals at public hearings, sources familiar with the controversy and who have attended county hearings tell GlobeSt.com. In the most recent transaction, the county paid Atlanta developer Jim Braden $1.9 million, or $100,000 per acre, for a 19-acre tract within the 1,500-acre Gwinnett Progress Center, as GlobeSt.com previously reported. County officials didn’t want the dirt in 2002 when it was first offered but have now decided they will use the land for a park or recreational area.

Another controversial behind-closed-doors transaction was the county’s $3.7-million acquisition in May of a closed 200,000-sf Wal-Mart Supercenter, brokers familiar with the deal tell GlobeSt.com.

By contrast, in nearby Cobb County, elected officials there vote on all land purchases at public meetings after first negotiating the deals in private, people in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com.

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