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GOP Calls For Investigation Into Shumlin Land Deal

AP File/Toby Talbot

There have been several key developments in Governor Peter Shumlin’s controversial land deal in East Montpelier.

First, a group of House Republicans is calling for an independent review of the deal. Burlington Rep. Kurt Wright says he’s troubled by many unanswered questions involving a deal that allowed the Governor to purchase land bordering his property in East Montpelier, for well under the assessed value of the land.

The Governor says the price was fair given the deplorable condition of a house on the property and that he was trying to help a neighbor avoid a tax auction.

The owner of the land, Gerry Dodge, was not represented by a lawyer. Now some of his family members are trying to void the deal because they say their father didn’t have the ability to properly represent himself.

Rep. Wright said there needs to be an independent review of this entire situation.

“I don’t think it’s political, I think that it is reality. It’s reality what we’re hearing when we go in the stores, when I go on the bike path in Burlington I haven’t gone anywhere that I haven’t had somebody bring it up to me,” said Wright. “And I frankly have had people ask me why is nobody else talking about this outside the press asking questions.”

And Wright said this is not an ordinary case of one person selling land to another person.

“I think that when you’re talking about the Governor of the state of Vermont, the most powerful man in the state, that there is a higher burden that we expect a high level of conduct from the person that leads this state,” said Wright. “You just can’t say hey it’s a simple real estate deal between me and my neighbor and it’s private.”

Wright and Dorset Rep. Patti Komline said it’s clear that Mr. Dodge’s limited income qualified him for a state program that allows homeowners to pay their property taxes based on their income and not the value of their property.

They want the state Tax Department to check all future tax auctions to see if the landowner is eligible for this program. Komline said it’s a matter of tax fairness.

“We don’t know how many predators are out there that are going to look at this opportunity take a look at what the governor did and no one else is stopped from doing the same thing,” said Komline. “It looks like this man was taken advantage of.”

Former Attorney General Jerome Diamond is representing the Governor in this case. He said there’s no need to have an independent review because the state has a process in place where complaints can be lodged to protect adults at risk.

“There’s a long process it is an investigation that’s done," said Diamond. "I would assume that the Attorney General’s office provides legal counsel to the Department during the course of an investigation like that.”

Diamond said the Governor wants to find a resolution to this dispute and one option would be voiding the entire transaction.

“He has thought long and hard about how to come up with a number of proposals that would end up making the Dodge family happy about the situation,” Diamond said.

Diamond said he’s eager to present the various options to the Dodge family and their lawyer as soon as a meeting can be arranged.

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