News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Democrats are calling for state auditors to investigate a $10 million purchase of a property that county officials valued at $4.4 million.
In a letter to the Comptroller of the Treasury’s Division of Investigations, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said the business deal may have defrauded state taxpayers of more than $5 million dollars.
“Tennesseans deserve absolute disclosure on this suspicious land deal and a full explanation for why we paid $10 million for a property the county assessor valued at $4.4 million,” Forrester stated in the letter. “If citizens are to have faith in their government, there must be complete transparency on high-dollar transactions and accountability if abuse or fraud is found.”
According to The Tennessean, state taxpayers purchased a distressed and unusable Knoxville office building on March 9, 2012 for $10 million to expand Pellissippi State Community College. The building required more than $16 million worth of repairs and, according to the article, the county property assessor valued the building at $4.4 million at the time of the sale.
The chief financial benefactor was a Knoxville developer who has business dealings with Governor Bill Haslam and is a personal friend of the governor’s father, the article said.
“To any casual observer, it appears taxpayers overpaid — by more than $5 million — for a distressed office building and that the financial benefactor was a businessman with deep political connections to Governor Haslam, whose administration advocated for the purchase,” Forrester stated in his letter.
More from the letter:
“The outward appearance of this bloated property purchase is unseemly and it calls for a closer examination of the facts to ensure that officials were acting in the best interest of taxpayers and not the interest of a well-connected developer.
“We Tennesseans detest crony capitalism, where well-connected businessmen use their political clout to increase their company profits at the expense of taxpayers. And we wholly reject preferential treatment that is not routinely offered to the public.
Note: Full text of the letter HERE.