Oaky Woods Corruption Update - Commentary by Steve Scroggins, 12/14/10
"Makin' his way, with all that backroom know-how.
That's just a little bit more than the law will allow..."
---The Oaky Woods Boys, Boss Sonny Boy Hit Parody Song!
A major development has broken in the Oaky Woods corruption story over the last few weeks. In a nutshell, the State of Georgia has agreed to purchase about
half of the 20,000 acres known as Oaky Woods in Houston County to preserve as wildlife habitat for recreation. Though the property has long been desired for preservation
by naturalists and wildlife biologists, the deal has been characterized as a "bailout" for the former owners who are friends
and cronies of the governor and who bought the property with big plans just before the bottom fell out of the real estate market.
For readers who haven't followed the story in detail, here's a few items from the GHC archive to bring you up to speed (through 2009) --- presuming you want to be:
Oaky Woods Corruption Update --Steve Scroggins, GHC, 12/07/09
Taxpayer Bailouts for Perdue and Oaky Woods Lobbyists? --Steve Scroggins, GHC, 1/22/09
Oaky Woods plot thickens...corruption festers --Steve Scroggins, GHC, 6/18/07
Perdue Land Scandal Timeline --Davis & Scroggins, GHC, 6/6/07
Georgia Challenges Louisiana As Corruption Leader --J.A. Davis & Steve Scroggins, GHC, 6/6/07
Boss Sonny Boy --Oaky Woods Boys parody song (MP3)
Georgia DNR should pursue purchase of Oaky Woods Tract...NOW! --Steve Scroggins, GHC, 11/3/06
Connecting dots on Sonny's Land Deals & Tax Breaks --Steve Scroggins, GHC, 11/1/06
Perdue Failed to Disclose Land Buy Near Prized Tract --AJC, 10/28/06
Perdue says no to conservation --Bill Shipp, 10/29/06
Oaky Woods Purchase Was Possible --AJC, 11/1/06
As noted in my
I was hopeful to see the Oaky Woods property preserved in State hands, but skeptical (given the greedy parties involved) that such an event could
occur without some form of ripoff to the taxpayer. According to recent news (below), Oaky Woods will be partially preserved (about half the 20,000
acres) and Georgia taxpayers are paying a price that provides a windfall profit for Perdue and his merry band of speculators.
Regarding the highest elected official in Georgia, a small group of Georgia citizens have been shouting "corruption!" and "liar!" for
years now (see old links above). So this latest revelation in the sordid OAKY WOODS scandal does not hold the shock value for
those who have had their eyes open (and their noses pinched) since Boss Sonny moved into the Governor's mansion. It's crushing to the soul to know
that the overwhelming majority of Georgians have no clue what Oaky Woods is or anything about Perdue's malfeasance in office. If you've read this far,
you must be interested. Read on.
Since late November, news emerged that an Oaky Woods "deal" was imminent. As various pundits have observed, the environmentalists
who have worked hard to Save Oaky Woods (especially the ecologically significant parts) have been reluctant to criticize the deal as it was shaping up for
fear that it would fall apart and banks or courts would end up with the property.
As The Macon Telegraph's Charles Richardson opined on their December 1st editorial page, those involved (especially the profiteers!) in the deal should
emerge "feeling a little dirty." I would liken it more to cleaning a mess of slimy, scaley fish in the hot July sun. When the job is
done, you want a shower more than a drink of water or a bite of food or an air conditioner. And even a shower will not remove the
stench from the fingers. That will linger there until you use lemon juice or vinegar and a stiff brush.
If you need to catch up, I'll pause while you read a few of the most recent news/commentary items on the Oaky Woods scandal. I'll discuss other
editorial opinions below, but you might also do a Google search for NEWS on "Oaky Woods Perdue."
Jim Galloway, the Policial Inciter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has some cogent observations...
Oaky Woods at double the price in a down market
Jim Galloway, AJC, December 8, 2010
Heather Duncan of The Macon Telegraph quotes some local residents who see the scandal as brazen and outrageous.
Oaky Woods deal elicits outrage, enthusiasm - Macon Telegraph 12/09/10
Of course, the entire stinking mess can be laid at the feet of Georgia's highest elected land speculator. Prior to Boss
Sonny "B.S." Perdue, previous governors placed their assets in a blind trust to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Perdue couldn't be bothered with such details to preserve public trust - he was too busy doubling his net worth in his first three years in office. His
corruption is about as IN YOUR FACE as it gets. In fact, we have
that Georgia has surpassed Louisiana and Illinois as the champion
state for corruption. I visualize Bernie Madoff slapping Perdue on the back and expressing his profound
admiration and awe... and perhaps asking for pointers on how to pull off such brazen scams WHILE avoiding prison.
In a recent parody,
I referred to Perdue as CEO of Ploys-R-Us, MarySon LLC, and various other shell corporations. Other politicians have been
described as "Teflon" - so I suppose we must say that Perdue is greasy Teflon. Like Madoff, I find myself wondering... "How does he
do it?" The more important question, though, is: "Why are so many taxpayers and voters shrugging?"
In their Dec. 9th editorial entitled BEAR MARKET, the SAVANNAH MORNING NEWS makes some rather pointed
observations, but they fail to ask the most cogent question raised by Mr. Galloway. WHO appointed the state's negotiators in this deal? The
answer, of course, leads back to our central theme here.
"It must be nice to own land that's worth twice what you paid in 2004. But it's even nicer to have Georgia taxpayers write you a check
for it." -- Savannah Morning News, 12/9/2010
Barbara Morgan of The Covington News (December 3, 2010)
makes some interesting and stinging observations (they would be stinging to anyone who had a conscience or sense of morals):
"While staying incredibly quiet about the major ills in Georgia's economy, while planning to leave office with no resolution of the state's
water wars, while leading no successful effort to solve transportation and education woes, he's been very busy feathering his
post-gubernatorial nest and that of his friends. The governor's actions say 'it's all about me and mine.'"...
Now, this week we've learned from the AJC how some of the gov's best buds, donors and long-time business associates are about to double
their money on prime conservation acreage in Middle Georgia called Oaky Woods....
The property, still of primo value to the conservation crowd, languished until terms of a possible deal came to light just this week.
It seems the current state budget includes $28 million in bonds to buy some 9,595 acres of Oaky Woods, and a DNR committee, then the
full board will consider the purchase next week. The purchase price of $3,000 an acre is almost double what the gov's cronies paid
just a few years ago. Now find me just one person whose property has doubled in value in the past few years. Just one....
All well and good, but now I'm thinking that every acquisition since Perdue's been in office ought to be scrutinized for friends,
donors and business associates who might have gotten a sweet deal....
We can only WISH that we had prosecutors with
the fortitude and dare I say "honor" and sense of duty to bring Perdue to justice. Again, it's not personal for I don't know Perdue personally. I
know people who have gone to church with Perdue. I've attended the church that Perdue once attended. I know people who think he's wonderful, an advocate for children and other causes. I have no doubt
that he has some redeeming human qualities somewhere. I have also stood a few feet from the man holding a sign that said "Sonny Lied." I have looked him
in the eye and seen contempt for truth, contempt for the rule of law, contempt for the principle that citizens are supposed to be the true rulers in our system.
What I despise is
not Perdue, the man, but rather his behavior: his abuse of power to enrich himself and friends, his arrogance and certainty that he is above the law,
his willingness to tell bold-faced lies or evade the truth for political gain or survival, his utter disregard for principles and for the honor that
high elected office should require. Though some dutiful
journalists have challenged his behavior and actions on the record, what I see as too prevalent is the attitude among people that we have no choice but to accept
this brazen abuse of power. It sickens me. I've seen nothing in the last decade to suggest that anyone will give it
another thought after Perdue leaves office.
Making it seem obvious that Georgia voters have NOT learned any lessons from Oaky Woods and assorted other Perdue scandals,
Governor-elect Deal has his own scandal baggage that doesn't bode well for the future. In the voters' defense, it was another "lesser of two evils" choice between
Deal and Barnes. The major parties place electoral victory above all other considerations (such as principles!)...and everyone has to live with
no REAL choice and the smelly results.
Perdue-v-Barnes....Perdue-v-Taylor...Deal-v-Barnes. I mean...really!! Is this really the best Georgia has to offer?
We all know that the answer is an emphatic "NO!" Yet, we muddle along, accepting this insult to our forefathers and the Founding Priniciples for which
they sacrificed so much.
The Oaky Woods scandal seems to be fading into obscurity already, a small victory for preservation, the taxpayers getting the shaft and
the corrupt elite skating away to the bank....justice denied. Essentially, Perdue's cronies emerge with 10,000 acres of land for a net cost
of $3 million ($32MM minus $29MM -- plus the cost of lobbyists), or about $300 per acre. They can sell it at market price and still reap
500% to 1000% profit. I can't help but wonder if there's another shell corporation (along the lines of MarySon, LLC) somewhere that
will get a cut of those profits.
While I'm happy as an outdoorsman that part of this unique property will be preserved, I'm outraged as a taxpayer that my tax dollars
are lining the pockets of Perdue and his cronies. But more importantly, I'm outraged that there are not thousands of citizens outside
the governor's mansion waving torches and pitchforks and pressing prosecutors for indictments. I'm annoyed that the media isn't hounding the governor relentlessly
to explain himself. At the very least, we know that
Georgia law was trampled when Perdue failed to report his interest in the property adjacent to Oaky Woods - the fact that MarySon, LLC
was created for the obvious purpose of concealing said interest is a no-brainer. The previously published
land scandal time line puts
all the details together for prosecutors to determine who has jurisdiction. Peruse them and judge for yourself.
Georgia could have bought the entire tract for a little more than we're paying for half. Perdue's greed and arrogant disregard for the people who elected him
risked losing the entire thing to condos and golf courses. If historians of the future have any sense of morality, then history will expose Perdue for the
sleazy crook he is and the dereliction of the people of Georgia will be laid bare, too.
Words fail me. It's impossible to muster the language to adequately describe the disgust, the anger and the heartbreak. The most painful aspect is that we,
the people, elected him and then RE-elected him. We, the people, are letting him laugh all the way to the bank without so much as a fine or formal rebuke.
Are we Georgians better off now that we were eight years ago? There's little doubt that Perdue is... along with a few of his friends.
"The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference." --Bess Myerson
"...such is the tragi-comedy of our situation----we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible....
We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst."
---C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Steve Scroggins lives in Macon and contributes most of GHC's parody
and political cartoons and graphics.
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