Gov. Nathan Deal continues to hide behind his lawyers when it comes to any questions about his auto salvage business and the company — his $20,000 per month tenant — that owes the state $74 million in back taxes.
In an event that is too strange for words, Gov. Deal sent his personal attorney and other campaign staffers to disrupt a press conference being held by one of two Republican primary challengers.
Even WSB-TV’s Justin Farmer and Lori Geary couldn’t hide their amusement over the truly “bizarre” Republican press conference yesterday.
The reason for the distraction is simple: Gov. Deal wants to talk about anything other than how his taxpayer-funded staff worked on a personal business deal that made the governor rich.
“What the Watergate tapes were to Richard Nixon, I believe the Copart records are to Nathan Deal,” GOP gubernatorial candidate David Pennington told reporters yesterday, just moments before Deal attorney Randy Evans began to shout from behind the reporters’ cameras.
The scandal in a nutshell:
Gov. Deal sold his auto salvage business — which was in debt at the time by nearly $2 million — to an auto salvage competitor that had been audited by the state Department of Revenue during Gov. Deal’s tenure. The Department of Revenue assessed the governor’s private business competitor with a $74 million bill for back taxes and penalties. The company, Copart Inc., soon purchased the governor’s struggling business and continues to lease land from the governor. Gov. Deal has told reporters that he would not work to collect the back taxes from Copart even as he collects $20,000 each month from the company. The Department of Revenue told Better Georgia that it would cost nearly $4 million and take 8 months to produce the public records involving Copart.
Better Georgia has been investigating Gov. Deal’s salvage yard for the past year. We broke the news that Gov. Deal’s taxpayer-funded staff worked on the private business deal that made the governor millions.
But even we learned something important from Randy Evans’ temper tantrum yesterday.
Until yesterday, the governor’s team claimed that Gainesville Salvage was put in a “blind trust” and that the governor only signed off on the transaction at the end — and only worked on a press release, not the business transaction.
Gov. Deal’s attorney, Randy Evans, confirmed what we have suspected from the beginning: the blind trust wasn’t blind at all.
Members of the governor’s taxpayer-funded staff did work on the governor’s private business deal.
“… the blind trustee did not have access to all the information necessary for a buyer and seller to communicate and it provided authorization for limited communication,” Evans said.
Evans went on to say that Copart couldn’t have purchased Gainesville Salvage without talking to the governor’s team because a buyer must “know everything there is to know, including every wart there is and they are entitled to ask people who would know, and they were given that permission to talk to people who would know any information.”
The “blind trust” didn’t know much about the governor’s private business, Gainesville Salvage.
So who, exactly, are the “people who know?”