Tag Archives: politically

Politically-Connected Businessmen Sell $5M Building to State for $10M

A group of politically connected businessmen earlier this year sold a long-vacant Knoxville office building in need of millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades to the state for $10 million, twice the price they paid for it five years earlier, reports The Tennessean.
The building, for Pellissippi State Community College, will cost an additional $16.6 million to make it suitable for a community college, according to a report commissioned by the college to assess the property before the purchase.
A series of emails obtained by The Tennessean under open records laws shows that the top aide to Gov. Bill Haslam stepped in late last year to try to make the purchase a priority after being contacted by an intermediary for the Knoxville developer selling the 220,000-square-foot building.
The developer, Samuel J. Furrow, has been a business partner with the governor in the past and a friend of the governor’s father, who loaned Furrow’s wife $1 million while Furrow was trying to sell the building to the state.
Furrow and his investment group bought the vacant property at 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike for $5 million on June 28, 2007, from North American Philips and sold it to the state on March 9, 2012, for $10 million, according to public records.
“We stole it (from Philips) and sold it to the state,” Furrow said in a telephone interview, attributing the gain on the investment to a low purchase price.
He said the deal did not produce a full$5 million profit because of expenses such as interest and maintenance.
“We did everything right and for the right reasons,” Furrow said, calling the sale “clean as a whistle.”
The state bought the building by tapping $87 million that it had previously budgeted for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor. But that money was able to be shifted for other uses when the federal government boosted its share of Medicaid funding for Tennessee as part of the stimulus package. In addition to $8.5 million in state funds, $1.5 million was contributed by the Pellissippi State Foundation toward the purchase.
Tennessee officials set aside an extra $2 million for immediate repairs, including a new roof. Estimates for total repair costs ranged from $3.1 million to nearly $5 million, records show. And to make the entire building suitable for use as a community college, a report dated Nov. 28, 2011, by Community Tectonics to Pellissippi State concluded it would cost $16.6 million, or $75 a square foot. Among that report’s recommendations was replacement of the heating and air conditioning system.
…The governor’s press secretary, Alexia Poe, said the governor was aware of the Knoxville building’s purchase but noted the process began before he became governor in January 2011. She said Haslam had never discussed the sale with Furrow or any of the other investors.
…Records obtained by the Tennessean under the state public records law show that a flurry of email activity began on Nov. 3, 2011, when Raja Jubran, acting as an intermediary for Furrow, contacted the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate….Jubran, who has been involved in business dealings with the governor in the past, urged in his email that the deal be closed by the end of the year. Though the effort ultimately failed because promised repairs had yet to be completed by Dec. 31, 2011, Jubran’s email set off a chain of emails involving high-level Haslam administration executives that outline their efforts to make the deal a priority.

Cobb Says Assault Charge ‘Politically Motivated’

State Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, called his arrest Tuesday on an assault charge “politically motivated” and predicted it would be “washed away” in court, according to the Times-Free Press.
Cobb was arrested in connection with an incident that happened on election day in August.
…”That’s the whole personality of this race that we just ran,” Cobb said. “Lies and mistruths? It was filled with that.”
Cobb is scheduled to appear for a hearing Friday in Rhea County Circuit Court. The crime is a class A misdemeanor.
Mike Taylor, 12th Judicial District attorney general, said he could not discuss details in the investigation, but said the charge was related to an incident at Frazier Elementary School where a voting poll was set up on election day.
The alleged victim and a sheriff’s deputy testified Monday before the grand jury, he said.
The indictment issued Monday by the grand jury states that Cobb assaulted Wanda Sue Goins, causing her to “fear imminent bodily injury” in the incident.
Messages left on Goins’ phone Tuesday were not returned. According to a Rhea County Sheriff’s Department report, Goins was sitting in her wheelchair at Frazier Elementary, campaigning for Cobb’s opponent, Ron Travis, on Aug. 2 when Cobb pulled up in his pickup truck, got out and “attempted to knock down Ron Travis’ sign.”
Cobb reportedly walked back toward his truck, turned around and “started fussing at her, pointing his finger at her about supporting Ron Travis,” the report states.
Cobb then “raised his hand up toward her and it scared her because she thought Jim was going to hit her,” the report states.
Cobb denied allegations there was an assault.
“There was no contact,” he said. “There were never even any harsh words [to] come out of my mouth to that lady.”
Goins also told the deputy Cobb had harassed her on the phone about her political loyalties, the report states.
n Tuesday, Cobb said he was the last to know about the coming criminal charge, and his political opponents celebrated his arrest.
“It was like a bunch of buzzards out there,” Cobb said of activities around the jail while he was being booked. “All the people who were against me were out there driving their vehicles around in circles just laughing and having a big time. But, you know, what goes around comes around.”

Rep. Hurley: Pepper Enjoys ‘Air Swimming;’ Critics Politically Motivated

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A state lawmaker hit back Tuesday at critics of a YouTube video she posted of her dog Pepper being held outside a moving car for what she called an “air swim.”
Freshman Rep. Julia Hurley said in an interview in her legislative office that her Chinese crested named Pepper enjoys being held out into the wind.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Hurley’s short video titled “Pepper Air Swims” was pulled two days after being posted on YouTube. Hurley, a Republican, said she removed the video because she “didn’t want to deal with” criticism she calls politically motivated.
“I think it’s a liberal ploy to take the attention off the bills and the legislation I’ve passed and the positive things I’ve done, to make me look like a bad person,” the Lenoir City Republican said.
Hurley said people who complained about the video should explain why they don’t have a similar reaction about other unrestrained dogs in the beds of pickup trucks or leaning out windows.
“My dog obviously enjoys it,” Hurley said. “She’s very happy.”

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