LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - A Gwinnett County watchdog group insists it the Chamber of Commerce has provided no proof that tax dollars have not gone toward promoting a controversial transportation referendum.
"We have no way of knowing how these funds are being spent," said Sabrina Smith of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government.
A spokesperson counters that the chamber has been "transparent" about money spent on promoting Tuesday's transportation tax referendum.
Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has been a driving force promoting the special option sales tax for transportation improvements in metro Atlanta.
Members of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government claim after conversations with Chamber leadership, they're still wondering if the Chamber used tax money to promote a controversial referendum some taxpayers oppose.
The Gwinett County commission confirms it has provided as much as 500,000 taxpayer dollars to the Chamber in one year.
A spokesperson for the Gwinnett Chamber insists that and other taxpayer dollars go to Partnership Gwinnett, the economic development arm of the Chamber, "which does not advocate for T-SPLOST."
"Partnership Gwinnett has no affiliation with the support of T-SPLOST," Chamber spokesperson Traci Strom wrote in an email to 11Alive News. "No taxpayer dollars are spent to support this initiative,"
Strom said the Chamber's public policy and advocacy arm has been behind the push for a yes vote on the transportation tax using funds "collected through our membership and sponsors."
Members of Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government wonder how the two arms of the Chamber can be kept separate.
"We've asked for documentation to support that and they've provided us with nothing," said Smith. "I think taxpayers deserve to know."
Strom wrote that the Chamber's spending promoting the tax referendum "can be found on the Citizens for Transportation Mobility campaign disclosures."
Gwinnett Commission Chair Charlotte Nash says the Chamber was warned about restrictions on the use of public funds.
"I believe the services we contracted for have been provided," wrote Nash in an email. "Prohibited uses of public funds, such as advocacy for a referendum, are not within the scope of the contract. I've been assured by Chamber officials that their advocacy for the referendum was not funded from the dollars we pay."
Nash said that she has been working with the Chamber for better accountability.
"Because this board also values transparency and accountability, county staff and I have been working with staff at the Chamber of Commerce to develop a new structure for the county's participation in Partnership Gwinnett through a separate non-profit organization," wrote Nash.