Steve Scroggins lives in Macon and serves as the GHC webmaster. He is the
deranged creative force behind the X-Files parody and satire feature.
Connecting dots on Sonny’s Land Deals & Tax Breaks – Commentary by Steve Scroggins
Most readers here are probably already convinced that Sonny Perdue is not only a
liar and hypocrite, but also a sleazy crook. If not, then let the facts below speak to your skepticism. My intent
here is to walk through some obvious and some subtle connections that may have escaped notice. I’ll attempt to
minimize my opinion here (do I detect doubt in your eyes??) and allow you to draw your own conclusions based
on the facts and sources presented.
A combination of AJC and AP reporting, combined with Taylor ads, have done a fair
job of getting this story in front of the public.
I was amused and disgusted by a TV news report on 13WMAZ (Macon) Oct. 30th as they reported Lt.
Gov. Mark Taylor’s news conference where he accused Perdue of unethical behavior in the Oaky Woods land deal.
Perdue was asked for a response on camera. The “deer in the headlights” look was apparent briefly, then Perdue
went into rehearsed response mode. In essence, he said, “the people have rejected these false allegations”
because of the lack of credibility of the accuser (Taylor). How lame. How typical of Perdue to lie and
obfuscate the issue at hand.
Taylor is merely the amplifier. His television ad spots lay out Perdue’s deeds
during prime time when even the most apathetic news-ignorant people are watching. But Taylor didn’t create the
records of real estate sales, tax records, legislative action and other details. The AJC, with echoes from AP,
has led the way to publish the story in print. Calling the AJC "Taylor's attack dog" is a pathetic smoke screen---a cowardly evasion.
But no one in the media "created" the facts and public records; Perdue and his cronies
must take responsibility for their own actions. More importantly, it's up to the voters to hold them accountable.
Perdue’s land scandals are not too difficult to follow with the events and facts laid out, but
his prevaricating parrot posse is doing its best to confuse the issues with their denials, half-truths and
falsehoods. Let’s review a time-line and then note connected events. A long list of links below will connect you
with sources for these events.
Perdue Land Scandal Timeline
- July 15, 2003 – Maryson, LLC, (limited liability corporation) is formed by Rep. Larry O'Neal on behalf of Mary & Sonny Perdue
- July 23, 2003 – Maryson, LLC buys 101 acres of Houston County land abutting Oaky Woods WMA for $303K --- tax records indicate it’s now worth $750,100 according to AJC since Oaky Woods sold in 2004. Tax records show that Gov. Perdue paid the tax bills for the land in 2003 (Maryson, LLC) and in 2004 (himself).
- August 12, 2003 – Gov. Perdue appoints Newnan developer Stanley Thomas as Member-At-Large to the Georgia Economic Development Board - Governor's website
- February 20, 2004 Weyerhauser announces intent to sell all its timberland in Georgia (including Oaky Woods tract)
- May 2004 – DNR Commissioner Lonice Barrett (who now holds a “key position on the governor's executive staff”) turned down The Nature Conservancy’s offer to bid $26 million for the property if the State would document intent to buy the land from the Conservancy at an unspecified future date.
- May 2004 – Maryson, LLC transfers Houston County land into Perdue's name nine days after Barrett refused offer from The Nature Conservancy.
- Late June 2004 – Houston County developers announce they are the winning bidders for Oaky Woods tract
- June 22, 2004 – Perdue and sister sell 318 acres inherited land near Hwy 96 in Bonaire; Perdue nets $2.9 million (money used to purchase Florida land)
- September 14, 2004 – Houston County developers close on Oaky Woods tract property for $32.1 million
- December 17, 2004 – Perdue buys 19.51 acres never seen for $2 million in Osceola County, Florida along a toll-road leading to Disney World from Stanley Thomas (via Fourth Quarter Properties) situated in Thomas’ development there and the property is expected to sky-rocket in value (estimates vary from $20 to $40 million).
- February 16, 2005: House Ways & Means Chairman Larry O'Neal (R-Warner Robins) files an administration tax bill, House Bill 488, that defers taxes on land sales starting in 2005 when "like" property is purchased in another state.
- March 4: O'Neal's committee approves HB 488.
- March 11: House passes HB 488.
- March 17: Senate Finance Committee approves HB 488.
- March 22: Senate Rules Committee sends HB 488 back to Finance Committee for changes on the motion of Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg).
- March 22: O'Neal, a lawyer who has filed land partnerships for Perdue and his wife, brings HB 488 to the Senate Finance Committee with a change, making tax deferment provision applicable to land bought beginning in 2004, instead of 2005. Committee approves new version on a motion by Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah). Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham, whose department wrote HB 488, says he wasn't at the meeting.
- March 29: Senate approves HB 488. O'Neal presents new version to the House without taking questions from chamber members, and it passes in three minutes.
- April 11: House formally transfers the bill to Perdue for his signature
- April 12: Perdue signs HB 488 into law.
- April 15, 2005: Perdue’s tax advisor takes advantage of tax deferment enacted by Perdue’s signature three days earlier to save Perdue $100,000 in 2004 state income taxes. The Georgia tax commissioner has acknowledged that Perdue was the only Georgia citizen to take advantage of the special retroactive provision in the tax law.
- January 4, 2006 – Fourth Quarter Properties, owned by Stanley Thomas, contributes $250,000 to Georgia Republican Party. GA Ethics website
- May 2006 – The Georgia Republican Party begins running ads for Sonny Perdue even though Perdue still faced a qualified Republican opponent, Ray McBerry, in the July 18 primary.
The timeline above mixes the events relative to Perdue’s miraculous $100,000 tax
break and his purchase of Houston County land that just happened to double in value when the State failed to
buy the Oaky Woods tract. There are other subtle connections.
The 'New Regime' adopts a Business Climate for Developers
Soon to be better documented, it’s known in certain circles that Perdue, certain
legislators, Zell Miller and others were flown to Florida to tour some new construction such as The Villages
( www.thevillages.com ) and introduced to Florida legislation that enables a variety of benefits (a “warmer
business climate” shall we say) for developers.
A Christopher Quinn story in the Feb. 28, 2006 AJC discussed some of the details of
HB1323 which were proposed to
mimic Florida legislation to create “development districts” and provide
the ‘benefits’ enumerated. The Oaky Woods development was specifically mentioned as a beneficiary of these
rural development bills.
The regime change in 2005 (GOP takeover) was an expression of raw power. The Republicans were giddy and the power went
to their heads. Their behavior made clear that Georgia needed a new
State seal adorned with a new motto. The old State motto ("Wisdom, Justice, Moderation") was out of
style. The new motto as implemented in their actions was "Deceit, Hubris, Domination." Perdue, of course, most represented Deceit. Domination exemplified
House Speaker Glenn Richardson, so much so that we adopted "Under My Thumb" (Rolling Stones) as the official theme music for Richardson parodies.
Lobbyists and favor seekers soon learned that "there was a new sheriff in town" and he demanded his due.
Honest Glenn defends House rules changes - X-Files
There's a New Sheriff In Town - X-Files
With the rules changes and "housekeeping" in order, the new regime set about implementing their agenda. Right off in 2005, the GOP majority commenced introducing all
manner of bills to enable developers to cut through “red tape” such as citizen oversight, sunshine laws,
individual property rights and eminent domain constraints. There were the infamous SB5, HB218, SB190, HB340,
et al, which would allow local governments and quasi-governmental agencies (such as development boards) to work
in secret without public access to hammer out deals and make public/private arrangements and to seize land for
“economic development.” These
bills were dubbed "the land grab bills" and the "secrecy bills." One opinion writer suggested that "secrecy" was the dominant theme of the 2005 session.
Sonny's Non-sunny Secrecy Forecast - parody
We can trust Republicans on HB218...NOT! - parody
Recently, The Villages, ( thevillages.com),
a retirement community in Florida, began running TV ads in central Georgia. Are they really trying to sell to this
market? I think not. It seems too coincidental that developers want to put a similar development on the Oaky
Woods land using the development bills mentioned above, SB414 and HB1323. The ads here are just PR to get the
locals warm and fuzzy with the idea. The Florida development is for retirees from the northeast and California
and other markets where they’re accustomed to paying $750,000 to a million and more for small condos.
My point in mentioning this above is that, although the Florida land, the $100K tax
break and the Oaky Woods land deal scandals have just surfaced in the last few months, the ground work for these
events started in 2003 and went into high gear in 2005 when the GOP assumed the majority in the Georgia House---when the environment and climate changed.
As the AJC and AP
pointed out, when the Florida land deal story broke during the summer,
Perdue’s first response was---you guess it----a bold faced lie. True to form. His response was that he purchased Florida land
to avoid the appearance of conflict. That purchase was in December 2004. Then it soon came out that he had
purchased the Oaky Woods land much earlier in July 2003.
The AJC wrote:
Perdue defended the Florida purchase, saying in August that he went out of state to avoid any charges of
conflict of interest that could arise if he bought in the state he governs.
"If I bought land within 100 miles of a new road construction I'd be accused by the other side of influencing
that," Perdue said last month. "So I chose to go out of state."
Perdue must have believed that the Houston County land purchase near Oaky Woods
would not be discovered. Otherwise, why would he make the boneheaded remark (obviously false) above?
It appears at first glance that the creation of the Maryson, LLC was for the
purpose of concealing Perdue’s interest in the property. Is it a coincidence that Maryson, LLC sold the land
to Perdue in his own name just nine days after DNR chief Barrett declined to bid on Oaky Woods? As the AJC
points out, Perdue did not properly disclose the ownership interest as required by Georgia law.
As Steven Harrell
points out, federal law prohibits state officials from benefiting financially from their
decisions in official capacities.
The Value of Perdue's Land
also reported that Perdue reported the Florida land at a value of
$185,700 because that’s the amount it is appraised at by Osceola County, Fla. But Perdue paid $2 million for
it. Clearly, purchase price is a better indicator of market value than an old appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes.
Perdue had reported the property at its sale price, his net worth would have nearly doubled, from $4.48 million
to $8 million, during his first three years in office. Seems that Mark Taylor’s point may have merit. Either
Perdue is using his office to make himself rich, or he’s just been extremely lucky in the last three years.
Yeah. Right. [ Ethics Complaint filed against Perdue ]
Mark Taylor’s political ads value the Florida property at $40 million. Perdue’s
smarmy rebuttal ads say, in an effort to discredit Taylor, that Taylor’s ads are “$38 million off.” In his ad,
Perdue offers to sell the land to Taylor for $20 million “or even ten million.” That constitutes a legal offer
and Taylor should have jumped at it for $10 million. Instead, at the debate in Perry October 13th, he offered to
buy it for $5 million if Perdue would donate the profits to a special needs charity. Come on, Mark! You could
have bought it for $10 million, sold it for more and donated the profits yourself to charity.
Who’s right on the value? Well… lots of a half-acre or less at the nearby Reunion
Resort & Club are selling for $350,000 to $650,000. Much of Perdue's land (19.51 acres) may not be developable
because it is on wetlands. But if only half of it were sold for residential lots at current prices, it would be
worth several times its purchase price. Even if Perdue only develops 9 acres and splits them into half-acre lots,
he'll make in between $4.26 million and $9.66 million of pure profit. And those are conservative numbers. 3500
square foot lots (a half acre is 21,780 feet) are selling at the nearby Reunion Resort for a smashing $450,000.
The Miraculous $100,000 Tax Break
The timeline on Perdue’s miraculous tax break begins in June 2004 but really gets
rolling when O’Neal enters the picture in 2005, moving up from Perdue’s (minority) floor leader in the House to
Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. The legislation that passed the House on the second to last night of the 2005
session retroactively exempted from state taxation capital gains on the deal Perdue had just made in late 2004.
Perdue signs the unusual retroactive tax cut into law April 12, 2005 just three days before his 2004 tax return
Miraculously, Perdue’s tax preparer just happened to read that legislation and discover the $100,000 in
tax savings Perdue realized from the tax law just signed. Perdue says he knew nothing about the legislation until he signed his tax return.
Yeah. Right. Some tax services summarize legislative
changes for tax preparers, but I doubt there are any that efficient...unless... the tax preparer was also the
governor’s attorney and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Conveniently enough, Larry O’Neal rose to Chairman of the House Ways and Means
Committee that writes tax law (approves tax law written by the Department of Revenue at their behest) when the
Republicans took a majority of the House in 2005. As they say, timing is everything.
Then O’Neal wrote in
the retroactive change unbeknownst to the Department of Revenue. Then he worked those changes through the House
and the Senate committees. O'Neal says he never had any conversation with Perdue about the special retroactive tax break.
He says the special retroactive provision was not written for any particular person. Yeah. Right.
Maybe an alien took over O'Neal's body and made these changes, then erased his memory.
Gon' Need Taxbreaks, Friend - parody
Selling Out Oaky Woods
Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had leased and managed the Oaky
Woods tract (owned by Weyerhauser) for almost 40 years. Their records indicate that DNR viewed the acquisition
(purchase) for permanent conservation of that property as a top priority. DNR Commission Lonice Barrett
described Oaky Woods as a “legacy tract,” meaning that it has a high value as a natural resource and wildlife
As the AJC reported (10/28/06), The Nature Conservancy offered to bid $26 million for the
property if the State would agree in writing to buy the property from the Conservancy at some future but
unspecified date. It seems that such a loose arrangement allowed time to arrange for conservation groups to
raise funds, to seek federal grants, to enact special hunting fees and taxes to produce revenues to pay any debt
the State incurred to purchase such a unique and irreplaceable natural treasure.
Perdue said that he was disappointed that the State couldn’t buy the Oaky Woods
tract. Oh really? Why was no effort made to secure funding? A simple commitment (back in May 2004) to buy the
land years in the future was all that was required. Heck, just one year of Perdue’s tax surplus (that he brags
about in his ads) would pay for the land.
The reason given for failing to buy the land was a "tight budget." The
reports (11-01-06) that that same year "the state directed $44 million available to DNR to
other projects." That same year, Gov. Perdue proposed borrowing $1 billion for "other priorities."
It’s just a coincidence that Perdue’s undisclosed land doubled in value since
the State failed to purchase Oaky Woods. It’s just another coincidence that DNR chief Lonice Barrett left the
DNR to fill a “key position on the governor’s executive staff.” Are there any other convenient
coincidences we should know about?
I suppose acquiring and preserving that land was not really a “high
priority”...at least not to the Governor. Maybe he had a higher priority (wink, wink). It appears to me that
the people of
Georgia (and future generations) have been sold out and betrayed. Again. Here's another shameful event we won't be able to explain to our
grandchildren. What happened to the black bears, grandpa? ....Well, sweetie, we let our governor wipe them
out to build some condos.
According to the Robbins
& Free real estate website, the Oaky Woods land remains for sale. Obviously, they will want at least the $32.1 million they paid
for it in September 2004--most likely more. Take that surplus and buy it, Governor Perdue, if you’re really disappointed. Or is it that
the developers (and perhaps you? -- another undisclosed financial interest?) want a lot more from this development?
Oh well. Looks like Perdue’s slogan “moving Georgia forward” really means “paving
Georgia’s irreplaceable pristine wildlife habitat.” More importantly, it means “moving Sonny’s portfolio and
net worth forward.” If the voters of Georgia re-elect this obvious crook, this insulting liar, that will be a sad, sad statement....and
we'll be sure to get much more of the same shaft from Perdue.
Steve Scroggins is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and he's the creative (if somewhat deranged) force behind the X-Files.
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A Breach of Trust - Steven Harrell
Sonnygate? - Perdue, O'Neal caught with britches down - Steven Harrell
Preserve purchase was possible - AJC 11.01.06
The Best Government Money Can Buy ... brought to you by the greennecks! - spofga.org 10.31.06
Sonny the land mogul - Bill Shipp 10.30.06
Perdue says no to conservation - Bill Shipp 10.29.06
Perdue failed to disclose land buy near prized tract - ajc.com 10.28.06
Perdue has $100,000 question - GDP 10.05.06
Secrecy issue should be on voters' minds – Mike King 10.05.06
Perdue quip about tax break draws Democratic criticism - AP 09.13.06
Perdue bought Ga. land; deal seemingly at odds with statement on conflict of interest – AP 09.03.06
Sep. 2006 Development Joint Plan - Houston County – mgrdc.org
Sound the Alarm for Endangered WMAs – gon.com
Petition to Save Oaky Woods & Ocmulgee WMAs –
Black Bears of Central Georgia – gwf.org
Boss Sonny Boy - hear the new hit song about B.S. Perdue by the Oaky Woods Boys - X-Files
B.S. Perdue scores big on Oaky Woods sellout... - X-Files
WHO signed into law a bill giving himself a $100K tax break? Boss Sonny Did! - X-Files
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