Tenn. Taxpayers Paid $10 Million for Property Valued at $4.4 Million
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Democrats are calling for state auditors to investigate a $10 million purchase of a property 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.”