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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Editorial: Perdue's $21 million loan calls for explanation

Remember the AJC's story about Gov. Sonny Perdue's $21 million loan? He borrowed the cash from a small bank in Perry, Ga., for his two agricultural businesses, which, unlike previous governors, he's opted to continue running while he also manages a state of 9 MILLION PEOPLE. Repayment of the loan, the article said, is due in March.

Perdue's office told the AJC that he wouldn't disclose the specifics of the loan. The Athens Banner-Herald's editorial board has laid down the funk on Perdue for his tightlipped behavior.

Retrospective, you say? I love retrospectives!

Frankly, Perdue long ago gave up any claim to the benefit of any doubt with regard to how he's conducted his business affairs while holding an office of public trust.

Here are lowlights of the governor's record:

  • In 2004, under Perdue's watch, the state passed on an opportunity to buy the 20,000-acre Oaky Woods tract, a process in which Perdue was involved despite the fact that he owns 101 acres immediately adjacent to the tract. The property eventually was sold to developers, and the value of Perdue's adjacent acreage doubled in value.

  • In the waning days of the 2005 legislative session, state Rep. Larry O'Neal, a Bonaire Republican who also was Perdue's lawyer, pushed through a piece of legislation that made a tax break on land sales retroactive to 2004. The new law gave Perdue a $100,000 break on a Florida land deal.

  • In the 2004 land deal that was the subject of the tax break, Perdue purchased approximately 20 acres near Walt Disney World for $2 million from Stanley Thomas, a large-project developer whom Perdue the year before had appointed to the state Board of Economic Development - clearly a prime perch for a developer. And the land Perdue bought is located next door to a resort community where half-acre lots were selling in 2004 for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Late in 2007, Houston County - the governor's home county - was chosen as the site for a planned $22 million fish hatchery and visitor center, a centerpiece of the governor's initiative to promote fishing and tourism in the state.

  • Last year, as the roiling economy prompted him to revise state tax revenue estimates downward by $245 million, Perdue left a $7.3 million outlay for a horse barn and practice ring at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter - in Houston County - in the state budget.

Ample reasons for the public to hear more details from the governor about his $21 million loan, the editors say. If not, they write, "it will be more than fair to conclude that this state's chief executive has wandered once again into questionable ethical territory."

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