Something’s Not Quite Right in Dodge County

This AJC article, (sorry, sorry myAJC) details how Representative Jimmy Pruett got a free building from taxpayers, just for being a good guy. Or some other more nefarious reason.

He apparently bought some land in 1997 for 600k, and then sold it to the development authority for 2.1 million 3 years later. Do y’all not remember the Dodge County land boom where all the property down there tripled in value in three years? Me neither.

Apparently this whole thing came to light when Jack Burnham joined the Dodge County Development Board (with whom the land deals were made) in 2012 and began digging into the transaction. But all’s well because he’s getting removed from office only one year into his term. Want to guess how? That’s right, Pruett got a bill passed. Yay, local legislation!

HB 635 also would allow Pruett and the Dodge County commissioners two immediate appointments to the development authority to replace Burnham and another member who would be required to resign. Both bills passed in the final days of the legislative session and await Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature to become law.

Anyway, back to the land. The Development Board didn’t actually pay him 2.1 million for the land – they just spend 500k to build on it, and then gave it back to him for free to avoid foreclosure*.

* This doesn’t make sense, by the way, but we’ll get back to that when he gets back to us.

22 comments

  1. bird says:

    The link was working for me.

    If these allegations are true, wouldn’t this qualify as criminal misconduct.

  2. We (Dems) were recruiting this guy pretty hard to run for Coleman’s seat since the Speaker was retiring. I remember when he called my co-worker on the phone and said basically it’s been nice talking to you but I got a better offer from the other side.

  3. Three Jack says:

    Wouldn’t it be cool if you could wakeup just one day without reading about another Georgia GOPer getting rich off of taxpayers?

  4. seekingtounderstand says:

    Does anyone else feel like we people of Georgia never get a break from political terrorism?
    You can say its just material stuff and its just money, but what Rep Pruett and the Governor are really doing is destroying our belief that WE CAN TRUST OUR STATE GOVERNMENT>
    We need to start shaming these people………………yet because we are a one party state we suffer the graft over and over and they cover for their own.
    We have all heard of worse behavior of elected officals which never even makes the news.
    When will Georgia say enough political terrorism!
    Probably when they all switch to being democrats……………….

  5. seekingtounderstand says:

    You know you can say corruption is a part of everything and we need to just get use to it…………
    and now thats what they are saying about Boston bombs……………just get use to the new America.
    Political actions can be just as destructive as the Boston Bombs, maybe not loss of life which is horrific, but we still loose something very valuable.
    I am ashamed of our go along acceptance.

  6. seekingtounderstand says:

    Why was there no outrage over what Rep. Pruett did and how the Ga Legislature passed a bill to cover for his corruption.

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    More examples of the quality of vetting of legislation by the Gold Dome.

    Interim fixes are easy. They’re called vetoes.

  8. Ken says:

    Break the story down into two parts:

    Part I, The Property:

    1 – Jimmy Pruett bought a piece of property with an industrial building on it.
    2 – He later sold the property to the airport authority, allowing them to defer payments.
    3 – The airport authority made improvements to the property, including constructing a second building located on the same property.
    4 – The business venture fell through, leaving the airport authority without a tenant.
    5 – Without a tenant, the airport authority could not pay for the property.
    6 – Rather than go through foreclosure, the airport authority returned the property to Pruett.

    Insert standard I’m-Not-An-Attorney boilerplate, but I don’t see the illegality and I venture to say that if the person involved in the transaction was not currently an elected official the only questions would be why another potential tenant or another buyer could not be located before the property was surrendered.

    Part II, The Taxes:

    1 – When the property was sold to the airport authority it was taken off of the tax rolls because the county won’t tax itself.
    2 – When the land reverted back to Jimmy Pruett, the property was not placed back on the tax rolls.
    3 – Nowhere in the story was the Dodge County Tax Commissioner asked why or how this happened.
    4 – Pruett stated that he contacted the tax commissioner’s office to have the property placed back on the tax rolls, which – by the way – should have happened automatically when the information was filed in the Dodge County Probate office.
    5 – Pruett should have made more of an effort to do fix the situation at the time, but his wife was terminally ill with cancer so I’m inclined to cut the man some slack.
    6 – To suggest that Jimmy Pruett was so politically powerful a decade ago (or even now) that he could keep property off of the tax rolls is not true and has no basis in fact.

    Illegal? I’m not sure. Should it have been handled better? Yes.

    Dodge County is an infinite onion with layers that are not apparent. There is more to this than meets the eye.

    What is especially misleading in the story is the implication that Jack Burnham was singled out to be removed from boards. In previous legislation – not mentioned – in a misguided attempt to enhance communication between local government and various boards, the boards make appointments to other boards. Burnham was appointed to the industrial authority by the airport authority, so that he sits on both boards. When the airport authority is dissolved, its right to appointments no longer serves a purpose and is also dissolved. All of its appointments go away, not just Jack Burnham.

    Also not mentioned is the controversy surrounding an attempt by the airport authority to sell off a 45 acre buffer zone surrounding 25 acres of off-set wetlands. This off-set acreage was required by the federal government when the airport was expanded. Is a buffer zone also required? There have been conflicting statements on that by experts. If the US Army Corps of Engineers deems that the buffer is required then Dodge County will be in a financial mess. A court injunction halting the sale has been issued but a hearing was held last Thursday to determine if the sale could be stopped. And all of this after local legislation was passed to dissolve the airport authority as a separate entity and hand its duties, assets, considerable debts and obligations over to the industrial board.

      • Ken says:

        Stefan,

        There are two parcels of land. I’ll look into it this week and let you know. The previous owner would only sell the land if both tracts were a part of the deal.

    • elfiii says:

      Spot on Ken. If Pruett recorded the quit claim deed from the airport authority (there is no reason to suspect he didn’t) and notified the tax assessor of same (which the tax assessor should have picked up on his own via the recording of the deed) what else is he supposed to do- hold a gun to the head of the tax assessor?

      Not to mention he wasn’t a politician when any of this transpired.

      Whither goest our lovers of liberty? Somebody beat the taxman, fair and square. Kudos to him.

  9. seekingtounderstand says:

    Well of course its all legal……………..they make the laws!
    Just like when a county commissioners cousin gets a big check for a easement thru his farm that is ten times what the farm would have sold for.
    Or like the developer that gets a county commissioner to buy with splost money a worthless water system that no one in their right mind would want……..pay off comes thru an option on commissioners land which of course never gets executed so he keeps the money.
    Of its all nice and legal with the aid of government workers. Doesn’t make it right and robs of us trust in Government which hurts/harms America.

    • Ken says:

      Again, when someone fails to make agreed-upon payments for property the reclaiming of that property by the seller is both legal and normal.

      I will be the last person to state that Dodge County politics is on the up-and-up because I know it’s not. This; however, may not be illegal and that the AJC chooses to bring forth some facts and not other pertinent facts lessens their credibility in this matter.

  10. seekingtounderstand says:

    Terrorist may kill us with bombs………..but its the local, state and federal corruption that is destroying our country.

    • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

      @seek Generally I agree with your perspective, corruption is always bad, at any level, public or private.

      I am more concerned about how current redistricting and campaign financing policies are implemented than corruption. Almost a horse of the same color…

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