Both sides of Shumlin-Dodge land deal lawyer up

The home of Gov. Peter Shumlin on Foster Road in East Montpelier. A state police vehicle is parked at the end of the driveway on Friday, while the governor was at work. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

The home of Gov. Peter Shumlin on Foster Road in East Montpelier on May 24 with a state police vehicle parked at the end of the driveway. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Jeremy Dodge is seeking legal help in an attempt to reclaim his family homestead from Gov. Peter Shumlin.

“I just want to get my property back,” Dodge said.

Meanwhile, Shumlin has already lawyered up, hiring one of Vermont’s best-known attorneys, M. Jerome Diamond, to help him weather a storm of controversy that has engulfed the governor since news broke about the land deal last month. Diamond is a former Vermont attorney general and founded the Montpelier-based firm Diamond & Robinson. He and Shumlin both hail from Putney, and Diamond said they have a longstanding relationship.

Diamond is fielding press inquiries about the land deal and will represent Shumlin in future negotiations.

“These are private real estate matters, and it would not be appropriate for the governor’s counsel to be involved,” Diamond said.

The issue sprang into the public spotlight two weeks ago, when the media began scrutinizing the deal. Dodge, a high school dropout and ex-con, regrets selling the property and claims that he had no idea what his options were when his next-door neighbor, Shumlin, purchased it. Dodge says he has received just over $20,000 for the property, or about a seventh of the assessed value, since the governor purchased it just before it was to go to a tax auction.

Ten days ago, Shumlin told Dodge and the media that he would renegotiate the deal. The state’s top official told reporters that he would pay for Dodge’s attorney, as Dodge did not have legal representation the first time around.

Jeremy Dodge of East Montpelier holds the folder on which Gov. Peter Shumlin sketched out the details on the sale of Dodge's property. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Jeremy Dodge of East Montpelier holds the folder on which Gov. Peter Shumlin sketched out the details on the sale of Dodge’s property. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Dodge said he has a meeting with attorneys from Vermont Legal Aid on Tuesday and is planning to talk to three or four other lawyers who have reached out to him. Eric Avildsen, director of Vermont Legal Aid, would not comment on whether Dodge was seeking the organization’s assistance, as it is a “confidential matter.” He did say that although legal aid regularly helps low-income people with disabilities, it is unlikely that the nonprofit law firm would assist in a real estate dispute.

When Dodge sold his family’s property, it was slated for tax sale. He says he didn’t know he could have kept his property for another year if it had gone to tax sale, and that he would have then had a year to pay off the more-than $17,000 in back taxes, plus interest.

As this story has unfolded over the past two weeks, numerous onlookers have noted that Dodge’s reported annual income of below $10,000 would make him eligible for large tax adjustments. Dodge never filed for an adjustment, and Shumlin did not bring the matter to his attention. Former Rep. Oliver Olsen, R-Jamaica, estimates that Dodge should have been liable for $463.26 in 2012, rather than the $4,597.11 he owed without an adjustment.

Dodge’s quest to retrieve his former property may prove difficult. Shumlin said in an interview last month that he would not void the sale because “that wouldn’t do anybody any good.”

Neither of the two parties in the dispute has contacted the other.

“I have no contact with the governor, nor do I have no need to talk to the governor because I’m not going to get excited over statements he’s made,” Dodge said. “It’s better off that I don’t say nothing to anybody, especially the governor.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin unveiled his budget on Thursday (01/24/13) to the General Assembly in Montpelier Vermont. Photo by Roger Crowley

Gov. Peter Shumlin unveiled his budget on Jan. 24, 2013, to the General Assembly in Montpelier Vermont. Photo by Roger Crowley

Diamond said he reached out to Dodge.

“I’m expecting that Jerry and maybe a member of his family would meet with counsel shortly and select a counsel,” he said. “And hopefully, if he remembers to pass my contact information along, that maybe I will get a call.”

Dodge’s son, Shawn Dodge, is a 19-year-old Vermont National Guardsman. He said his family would like to settle their differences with the governor out of court.

“We’re trying to settle this civilly with the governor,” he said. “There’s nothing set in stone, but we’re hoping my dad can pay him back and it goes through tax sale again.”

Shawn Dodge said he and his four siblings did not know their father had sold the land his grandparents purchased circa 1950. Had they known their father was considering selling the property to Shumlin, Shawn Dodge said, they would have stepped in.

“It seems like a very raw deal, and we don’t know what all is going on and there’s a lot of paperwork we’re looking into,” he said. “There’s a lot of digging we have to do ourselves to figure out what went wrong, and where all of this information went, and whether my grandparents left something for my dad’s taxes.”

Shumlin briefly addressed the issue at a news conference last week and said that he would not comment on the matter further until the two parties had reached an agreement.

“As you know, we intend to enter into conversations with Jeremy as soon as we can,” he said. “Nothing has been scheduled yet, but I look forward to having those conversations.”

Dodge said that political operators have since contacted him about the matter. While he did not name names, he said he has no interest in dealing with them.

“I ain’t doing this for the politics, I just want to get my stuff back,” he said.

Related stories

Digging into the deal.

Shumlin responds.

What it’s worth.

Andrew Stein

Comments

  1. Michael Colby :

    “…if he remembers to pass my contact information along…” Oh boy, just when you thought the Governor and his people couldn’t stoop any lower.

    But, other than the continued cheap shots via the media, it’s a “private matter.”

    Let’s hope Shumlin won’t need that estate — er, cabin — much longer.

  2. sandra bettis :

    i sold a house a few yrs ago that i probably could have gotten more out of – can i have a do over too?

  3. Jay Davis :

    If this isn’t the test case for our benevolent Governor. Now, hires a Diamond gun to fire at a man who he really swindled.
    Of course, I sensed this about Schumlin long ago, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me.
    Schumlin really must want this poor families land very badly, except oil and gas haven’t been found yet in Vermont.
    Satire-OFF

  4. Peter Liston :

    “I ain’t doing this for the politics, I just want to get my stuff back,'[Dodge] said.”

    Then why did he go to the media before he got a lawyer?

    • Karl Riemer :

      I don’t think he did go to “the media”. I believe WCAX sought him out. His kids, on the other hand…

  5. Roy Moss :

    And how exactly was Dodge going to pay off the 17k in a year? Or even 10 years? The man doesnt have a real job and couldnt even pay his electric bill. No, more than likely after the Gov paid his bills and gave him some cash he figured he could hold the Gov up for more than he bargained for with the threat of a public “scandal.” He obviously underestimated Shumlin. Dodge is a loser several times over and his past speaks volumes about his lack of character. This is truely a case of a lowlife biting the hand that feeds him.

    • Karl Riemer :

      Now, wait a minute. This comment, like the one below, caricaturizes both people. The facts are not far wrong but the motives ascribed and characters imputed are pure speculation. Mr. Dodge didn’t and still doesn’t understand the pickle he’s in. He’s both vulnerable and reprehensible, but there’s no evidence he’s devious. Mr. Shumlin’s grasp of reality (especially real estate reality) is incomparably greater and he definitely had every advantage in this transaction, but there’s no evidence he took advantage. Relieving Mr. Dodge’s considerable debts, making his home semi-habitable and paying for a piece of land he doesn’t need and a house he’ll have to pay to remove is neither obviously altruism nor exploitation. It’s a purchase agreement for something, with someone, most people wouldn’t consider worth the risk. Which, it turns out, it wasn’t.

      Had the property been auctioned off for back taxes, perhaps one of the insightful commentors here could have dealt with the durable Mr. Dodge and his children, since they know him so well.

  6. dave stevens :

    Taking advantage of a vulnerable Vermonter. I would imagine that a viable opposing candidate in the next election will ride this nugget for all the votes it’s worth. Lets hope its many.

  7. Don Peterson :

    This story has everything. Charles Dickens himself couldn’t have done better in creating characters truer to type than Peter Shumlin and Jeremy Dodge. You have your albatross indeed, Governor.

    And now comes Jerome Diamond, the icing fringe on the cake of litigation that the Governor has baked. I hope this stays in court until next November at the earliest. If only Legal Aid doesn’t let us all down and settle out of court…. this story needs all the daylight it can get. We want our bread and circuses!

  8. Alex BARNHAM :

    “Slowly I turned, and step by step, inch by inch I walked up to him and then I slapped him, bopped him, punched him, ripped him to pieces and I knocked him down!” “Sorry kid it’s that word taxation, every time I hear that word it tears me apart inside.”

  9. Gavin Cook :

    Shumlin is a pathological liar, he actually believes what is coming out of his mouth.
    Voiding the deal “wouldn’t do anybody any good”, um, except for Jeremy Dodge.
    Shumlin’s idea about helping a neighbor:
    1. fix up your neighbor’s house
    2. buy it for 25% of the value
    3. deduct the money for fixing it up.
    4. deduct money for rent
    5. deduct money an pay off any liens
    6. send your neighbor out into the street with a smile and less then 10% of the value of his house and land.
    (before you help your neighbor, make sure he isn’t all there and wait until the house is going up for tax sale)
    Jeremy didn’t even get kissed first.

    • cate bell :

      #7 immediately run to the listers office and get tax on property reduced.

  10. Bob Stannard :

    As is always the case there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Dodge’s son is now saying that if he had known his father was selling the property….

    Where has his son been? Has he been there for his father, who obviously has some issues? It sounds like he now cares about his father because he might be able to get the land back.

    Nobody gave a hoot about Jeremy Dodge. That is until the governor decided to help the guy out.

    • Cheryl Pariseau :

      If what Shumlin did to this guy was being a friend then who the heck needs enemies? Friends help friends find solutions to their problems, not take advantage of them.

      • Karl Riemer :

        Solutions to crushing debt and living in squalor, what might that look like? Would it look like paying the debts and reducing the squalor a little bit? Would it look like buying a piece of land the owner can’t afford to keep, so he’ll have some money to start over, rather than let it go for taxes so he’ll have none? What would you, since you’re so versed in friendship, have done for Jerry Dodge? Would you have written him a nice note?

        • David Dempsey :

          I would have at least told him that if there was a tax sale Mr Dodge could live in the house for one year, rent free. He would also receive all the proceeds from the sale less the taxes due and had a year to pay the taxes and keep the property. The reports I read said that the daughter found somebody to lend her the money in February and went to find out the exact amount owed for the late taxes and that’s when she found out the tax sale never happened and Shumlin wned the property. I certainly would have questioned why the taxes due were so high knowing his income was only around $10,000. I make more than that and I get a credit on my taxes every year. A friend might have mentioned these things and advised him to let the tax sale go ahead.

    • Brenda Pepin :

      Bob, I think you left out a few words after “That is until the governor decided to help the guy out.” It should read: “That is until the governor decided to help the guy out of his home and off of his land.”

      Roll over Lap Dog!

    • Karl Riemer :

      “Dodge’s son is now saying that if he had known his father was selling the property….”
      Dodge said he asked his son for help and was turned down. He went to the governor as a last resort. (Not that J. Dodge’s testimony is unimpeachable, but it’s highly likely his kids knew exactly what was going on, down to the hour of the tax sale.) What his son said, though, is that he didn’t know his father was selling his land, and that’s almost certainly true. He thought the town was selling it out from under him. Jerry Dodge went to the governor looking for a magic incantation and received instead a purchase agreement that started with paying his debts. I don’t know what those kids are up to but they couldn’t or wouldn’t do a blessed thing for their father until after someone else did, at which point they’re incensed that it wasn’t enough.

  11. David Black :

    Wouldn’t it have been easier and more ethical to have been more ethical in the beginning? Oh, directed towards Shumlin.

  12. Fred Woogmaster :

    Mr. Shumlin has chosen wisely in securing the services of M. Jerome Diamond. Mr. Diamond is very savvy and would no doubt have steered our ambitious governor away from the slippery slope he has placed himself on. There would be no hand scrawled contract on an envelope; but there is.

    The stench of impropriety has been diffused and sanitized. When the winds stir up, the odor wafts back.

    The Governor snookered the press by creating individual, one by one, interviews with selected journalists. Our one remaining national news organization (The Associated Press)was apparently excluded.

    Although I believe the Governor did nothing illegal in constructing “the deal”, he did create a most unsettling situation for those who concern themselves with social justice and the plight of the less fortunate.

    The stench of impropriety remains. Even Mr. Diamond’s superior skills, political savvy, and mellifluous words will not remove the foul aroma of bad judgment accompanied by a clear semblance of impropriety.

    To my respected and highly valued friends of the Press Corps:

    This Governor plays the media like an accordion. Don’t allow him to squeeze you into a shape he likes. Please!
    And how many among us are without flaw? None!

  13. Fred Woogmaster :

    Mr. Stannard: “Until the Governor decided to help the guy out”.

    I would agree with your statement partially.
    ‘Nobody appeared to give a hoot about Jeremy Dodge until the Governor helped himself out’ is the conclusion I’ve drawn.

    Mr. Liston:As far as Dodge contacting the media – I believe that a journalist heard the story from a third party and suggested that Jerry Dodge call him, which he did – a standard journalistic procedure. If true, not quite the same as Mr. Dodge “contacting” the media. A nuance perhaps, but an important distinction. Is it true?

  14. I don’t believe Shumlin ever claimed he was trying to be Dodge’s friend (am I wrong on this?). For that matter I’ve read statements attributed to Shumlin that speak of a very different relationship.

    Shumlin was under no obligation moral or otherwise to ascertain why Dodge had the tax bills he had. Until this issue hit the news and was actively investigated for all anyone knew these back taxes could have gone back many years.

    Shumlin did one foolish thing – he forgot that a Governor really has no expectation to privacy, and as such he should have gone the extra mile to avoid unpleasant outcomes. Shumlin should have insisted “no lawyer no deal”.

    But then again 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing, no?

    I find this Shumlin bashing to be hogwash.

    • Lea Terhune :

      In a press interview right after the story broke, the governor claimed he was doing the neighborly VT thing, helping out a neighbor. Anyone trying to spin this as the governor being a friend of his neighbor, or being a good neighbor, or doing the VT neighborly thing, come on. That does not pass the straight face test. The governor does not need this land, the deal went sour on him, and the decent neighborly thing to do is to tear up the agreement and give the Dodge family their land back. Shumlin is going to have to spend a lot of money in campaign funds to undo the damage to his image. The only was to redeem himself is to reverse the deal, write off the financial loss, and apologize to us all for describing good neighbors in Vermont this way.

      • Karl Riemer :

        Peter Shumlin counts as helping out his neighbor offering him a far better outcome than would have resulted from the imminent tax sale. The tax sale might have paid off J. Dodge’s debt in exchange for his land, but he’d still lose the land. Shumlin’s deal paid off all the outstanding debt and, at conclusion, gives Dodge many thousands of $. Tearing up the contract is not possible. That would simply reinstate all the debt J. Dodge couldn’t pay, had no hope of paying, only now he’d owe it to his neighbor. He’d be right back where he started, which was at the end of his rope, and eventually he’d have to give the land to Shumlin anyway. or sell it to someone else to pay Shumlin. You’re right Shumlin doesn’t need the land, probably doesn’t want the land, but also didn’t want to see Dodge evicted and destitute. So, he bought the land. Your suggestion, that he buy the land and then simply give it back, goes ‘way beyond neighborliness. Like most of the people here, you’re demanding someone else do what you would never do yourself. You’re claiming moral authority to criticize what you would have no trouble justifying if you did it yourself. You’re gleefully pointing fingers at a person for being a person, as opposed to being a saint.

  15. Jason Farrell :

    “Dodge said that political operators have since contacted him about the matter. While he did not name names, he said he has no interest in dealing with them.”

    Just wait. It may take a month or two, but once Mr. Dodge discovers that he could be supported (literally and figuratively) by exploiting these “political operators” for his own personal gain, he’ll likely reconsider and run to the press.

  16. Eric Benson :

    The real story is how a run down house in rural VT is taxed at $4.5k per year.

    • Karl Riemer :

      It was only recently run down. It’s now taxed as not-a-house, land with a foundation. When J. Dodge’s parents lived there it was apparently a very nice house.
      Also, not to quibble, but maybe semi-rural is more apt. It’s about ten minutes from the statehouse.

  17. Frank Davis :

    Thank you for the article.
    If not for politics this story would not make the local shopping news. This happens all the time in every town. There actually is a story behind every tax sale. There is a divorce, a substance abuse issue, pernicious gambling or spending, a death, a legal conundrum, an extended illness, a layoff a domestic tragedy, an incarceration, desperate financial transaction and any combination of these events.
    By serendipity a governor has a property bordering a property on the verge of a distress delinquent tax) sale and he makes an offer to the owner for less than the assessed value but enough to pay off the taxes, and even more to cover other expenses, (child support and provide cash,) and a reasonable time to continue residing on the property. The governor could have waited until the day of the tax sale and bid on the property at the town clerk’s office. He just might have been the only bidder, (as is often the case) and could have acquired the property for $17,000 to cover the delinquent amount and Mr. Dodge would get nothing.
    But politically the opposing party can not let this be an opportunity to persecute the politics they hate. In this case the party faithful pursue the policy of slander regardless of the fact that they are insulting the seller to the max. They have made him out to be a weak, limited, poor, unfortunate, simple, afflicted rube who was oppressed by a slick millionaire politician.
    Reading only the comments critical of the governor, Shumlin must have planned this for at least three years. He must have subliminally planted (over a three year period) an irresistible suggestion that Mr. Dodge not pay his taxes, not read the notices the town puts in his correspondence about appealing the assessment, or requesting an abatement or filing his homestead declaration, or restoring communication with his family, or discontinuing his hermetic lifestyle. Because according to his political critics a governor from the other party is always evil. Ironically those sorts of accusations are always unethical and false.

    • Paul Davidson :

      Just in case anyone needs to fill out a Homestead Declaration form, I found a blank form here http://goo.gl/tbcmOY. This site PDFfiller also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and a few related forms that you might find useful.

  18. Fred Woogmaster :

    Rama: “Shumlin should have insisted ‘no lawyer no deal'”.

    Absolutely, 100%, without question and without doubt.
    You and I share that notion.

    It is our interpretation of Mr. Shumlin’s failure to do so that differs and our assessment of what followed.
    It may also have something to do with our notions (yours/mine) of what it means to be Governor.

    Of course privacy is an issue.
    Maintaining privacy and maintaining a high ethical standard is not a mutually exclusive process.

    I’m glad you’re there, Rama. You pay close attention. I appreciate that.

  19. Brenda Pepin :

    You are right, Dave Stevens, this whole matter is about taking advantage of a vulnerable Vermonter. But then again, both Shumlin and his Putney pal and lawyer, Diamond, demonstrated a shared lack of regard for those Vermonters who have diminished capacity while attending the “party” to cheer the signing of the assisted suicide bill into law – a bill that ended up so hastily and recklessly pasted together that now people just like Jerry Dodge will be in serious jeopardy of being pressured into requesting a lethal dose to get out of the way of those who could benefit. Shumlin and Diamond make a nice pair.

  20. Fred Woogmaster :

    Ms. Pepin: I do not agree that “this whole matter is about taking advantage of a vulnerable Vermonter” although I do believe it to be one aspect of “the deal”.

    Your use of this issue to bring forth your disapproval of the passage of the “suicide bill” (as you put it) puzzles me. I am certain that you can identify a number of different reasons to support your criticism of Misters Shumlin and Diamond.

    John Walters has posted a piece on Green Mountain Daily that builds from this article. I found it to be quite interesting.

  21. Debra Chadwick :

    I would hate to see Shumlin slither his way out of this incident with the help of his high powered friend and lawyer, Mr. Diamond. He knew what he was going in “helping” his neighbor, who was down and out, and not as bright or well versed in property, taxes, real estate, etc. Our “esteemed” Governor got Dodge’s property for a low price and yes, he did take advantage of the person and the situation. Shumlin did not expect this underhanded “neighborly” gesture of his to get so much attention…where are your ethics, Governor? Glad I didn’t vote for him…

  22. Wayne Andrews :

    As per the Frank Davis comment that the Gov could have just purchased the property that day of tax sale. That is true however there exist some risks with this move. First the buyer at tax sale has no insurable right to protect the home, no right to enter the land for the redemption year and most importantly only be handed what is known as a tax collectors deed to the parcel should the delinquent not pay in full.
    In order to obtain marketable title to the parcel another round of legal moves (and costs) need to be implemented giving Dodge another bit of the apple.

  23. Chris Campion :

    If Shumlin was such a helpy fella in all of this, why is he going back to “renegotiate” such a sweet deal he gave Dodge?

    The only reason it’s happening is because the story got out. Shumlin is in damage control mode. If “helping” a neighbor means buying their property at a fraction of its market value, then Shumlin can never, ever again make negative statements about companies earning big profits. Or talk about helping the average Vermonter. We’ve seen how he “helps” the people with the least amount of resources. He takes advantage of them.

  24. Fred Woogmaster :

    As I expected, the Dodge’s can not get legal representation from Legal Aid for a “real estate transaction”.

    Have you ever thought about the hourly rate billed by lawyers in relation to the average income of Vermonters? Mr. Diamond is capable of earning the equivalent of Mr. Dodge’s annual earnings – in ten hours. His normal hourly rate is probably closer to 300 dollars, but 1000 dollars an hour would not be extraordinary from certain clients.

    Lawyers are abundant in Montpelier; many competing to make the living they seek. Among themselves they talk about “cash cows” and “stones”. A cash cow can be a very wealthy client or a case (personal injury, for example}that will pay off like a slot machine.

    A “stone” is one who has no means. Representing such a person is (1) not lucrative (2) more trouble than it’s worth. Suing such a person is a frivolous act.

    This circumstance exposes a number of societal issues that are destructive to our citizens and our communities, including a legal system that is rigged for lawyers and those with means. Our Governor, who has placed his authenticity into question, has unintentionally opened the peephole.

    I am fearful that the peephole will close as the Governor is not held fully accountable for the process by which he chose to engage in “the deal”.

    A friend who has been reading my comments here asked – “what would you want him to do, Fred?”

    At this point – void the deal, by all means. It may mean he will not acquire that property; it may also mean that his political life will not be interrupted.

    Property is property; trust is trust. It boils down to me this way: I have lost trust in the process by which Peter Shumlin makes decisions.

    We can learn from this to improve our State or we can deny its significance by calling it a private deal. In any case, our systems need repair while our Governor has rendered himself “impaired” – for a good deal, and property.

    If he does not void the deal, will it have been a good trade-off? Time will tell.

    And how many among us are without flaw? NONE!

    • Peter Liston :

      Isn’t it too late to ‘void’ the deal?

      Shumlin has already paid Mr. Dodges back taxes.
      Shumlin has already paid his back child support.
      Shumlin has already fixed up his house, restoring power, water and sewer.
      Shumlin has already provided shelter for Dodge for a year.

      In order to ‘void’ the deal, wouldn’t Dodge have to pay these things back? And how is he going to do this if he has no money?

  25. Fred Woogmaster :

    Voiding the deal would include delving into the situation to discover the remedy for the obviously “unjust” circumstance of Mr. Dodge’s life, regardless of past behavior, and determining his ‘true’ indebtedness. His debt for child support, given his circumstance and income, without question includes penalties, fees, fines and anything else the system can find to pile on with.

    Voiding the deal would include Shumlin’s being reimbursed for any money he has put out on Dodge’s behalf. It might take a while but our fortunate Governor probably does not need reimbursement immediately.

    Voiding the deal would not be the appropriate “business”
    move. I know that. It would be, in my judgment, a just and hyumane move.

    I’ve been searching for the guy who recited the humble words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his closet; Peter as a lad.

    Some friends who have known Mr. Shumlin for many years describe him as man who seems to have no true humility. I hope that’s not true.

    • Peter Liston :

      I respect your position, Fred. The situation merits that we take a compassionate look at Mr. Dodge’s life and circumstances.

      At the same time, Mr. Dodge makes his own decisions in this world. He accumulated his debts on his own. And every man is responsible for his own actions. He has an obligation to take care of his kids. He has an obligation to pay his fair share of taxes. He has an obligation to pay his utility bills.

      If Shumlin and Dodge had not made this deal, Mr. Dodge’s property would have been auctioned off. It’s likely that he would be homeless today. He would have been relieved of his tax burdens but would still have his other debts.

      I just don’t see that it’s fair for Mr. Dodge to get everything back now that someone else has paid his debts. And given the reported condition of his house, I don’t believe that it’s a healthy thing for him to continue residing there.

      Work should be done to find a middle ground – Mr. Dodge gets more compensation from Mr. Shumlin and assistance accessing social services. He is moved into a safer and healthier dwelling and given proper assistance to live on his own. Mr. Shumlin gets the land that he paid for but he pays at a higher cost than initially agreed to. Both sides will have to give something up for this to be resolved equitably.

  26. Fred Woogmaster :

    The Governor appeared by telephone on the Mark Johnson Show this morning, where he allowed Mark to interview him about “the deal”. He had previously announced that Mr. Diamond would be the only person speaking on the subject.
    Mr. Liston: and…
    re: Reimbursement to Mr. Shumlin – Given the carefully veiled character assasination of the Dodge family, I have no confidence that the family, and their lack of prior participation, has been portrayed accurately. They may be capable of participating, now, in a way that we have no awareness of.

    Listening carefully to Mr. Shumlin’s responses this morning has changed nothing about the opinions I have expressed heretofore.

  27. Fred Woogmaster :

    Mr. Liston: You raise some good points and I have absolutely no argument against any “acceptance of personal responsibility” positions.

    Tax sales happen all the time in Vermont. The winning bidder does not take possession of the property for one year, nor do they hold title (I believe). The prior owner/tenant can live on that property for one year, and if they, until the very last minute of that year, can pay the tax debt, the title remains in his/her hands.

    Purchasing the property prior to tax sale put the Governor in an advantageous position, however it benefited Jeremy Dodge

    You know, Mr. Liston – in the final analysis it comes down to trust. I believe that the Governor’s story is so nuanced and polished that there could be no refutation even if warranted.

    Even more important, however, making decisions is arguably the most important single function of a governor. If the process by which he has made decisions related to “the deal” reflects his decision making style as Governor, what then?

    Peter Shumlin has the capacity to make everybody “whole” including himself. Void the deal, pay much more, straighten out the tax and child support situation, whatever it requires. If he must spend more money to do it, he can attribute it to the ‘cost of doing business’ He will make millions more in his lifetime. This will be a financial blip on the screen.

    Voiding the deal, starting from scratch, demonstrating humility, I do think would be best for everybody. What do I know? I’m just a guy sitting on a hill who still believes in the spirit of Dr. King’s words and that truth and kindness will prevail.

    Somebody made a comment on a previous thread about being disappointed because he thought this governor offered some promise. Me too. Maybe that’s why this continues to trouble me so deeply. I have been adding “and how many among us are without flaw? None.” to many of my comments.

    I wish to add now: And how many among us are Governor? One!.

    • I gotta say, Fred, that I don’t think Shumlin is advancing a nuanced story at all, and what he said on the Mark Johnson Show today mirrored the facts as I understand them.

      Is there a fault in the system? I don’t know – I don’t know the history behind all of the debts that piled up for Dodge. Is there an issue with the legal system that creates barriers to folks who don’t have a decent financial base? Yes – but that isn’t Shumlin’s fault. Was it likely Dodge could have remained in a house that had no electricity or heat and a failed septic system? No.

      Did Shumlin end up with a good property at a good price? This seems likely although he will also have to invest a sizable amount of cash to fix the property up.

  28. Jay Davis :

    People, lets see the facts here. Peter Schumlin had an ambition and he got 15 acres of land from a man who is probably not in a position to pay any of his alleged bills.

    Indeed, Schumlin took the deed and went directly to the tax off ice to get the assessment reduced. Incredibly they reduced the taxes by more than 50 percent.

    It was a sweet deal for Schumlin who knows how to milk a cash cow until its bled to death.

    Mr. Dodges abilities to pay, his past assumed debts unpaid are completely in material. It is Schumlin who because of his millionaire status and political position the spot light must shine upon. Not Mr. Dodge or his family or their specific circumstances.

  29. Fred Woogmaster :

    Rama: I understand your point of view and it makes perfect sense. The difference between your perspective and mine – is interpretation. I see no angels or halos in this one.

  30. Lynn Nila :

    Dodge vs Career Politicians. If this is going to a Vermont District court, good luck Dodges…

  31. Ron Pulcer :

    I agree with Rama that the Governor should have walked away when the seller (Mr. Dodge) did not have a lawyer representing him in the real estate transaction.

    I also agree with Fred’s comment, “I see no angels or halos in this one”, as it applies to both parties to the transaction. In reading the comments, it’s hard to separate fact from speculation.

    But then again, to critics of this land deal, this is the “free market” with willing buyer and willing seller. Perhaps Mr. Dodge was more of a desperate seller, given his debts, but he was willing to at least rid himself of property tax and child support debt, and he signed the dotted line.

    This kind of reminds me of another politician / business person (Mitt Romney & Bain Capital) who purchased / took advantage of distressed, in-debt corporations. The main difference in this real estate deal is that it is on a much smaller “Vermont scale”. ;-)

    • Peter Liston :

      Interesting comparisons. I wonder if any of Shumlin’s critics have ever been to an auction and gotten a great deal on something. Did they stop to consider that they were profiting of of another person’s misfortune in much the same way as Shumlin did in this case?

      I’m not saying that Shumlin was 100% right to do what he did … but I do believe that much of our ecconomy is based on trading on the misfortunes of others.

    • Jay Davis :

      Ron, this situation is not simply a land deal. It involves the Vermont Governor being what appears very greedy and Bam-Buzzking a down and out guy. Yes, tempting him, with money!

  32. Fred Woogmaster :

    “Much of our economy is based on trading on the misfortune of others”. Sad but true!

    Capitalism is a proven economic engine which is in the early stages of seizing as a result of essential services being provided within the profit rubric and the ability of our corporations to maximize profits on the backs of the struggling people of the world.

    Unbridled capitalism is not a an engine. It is a powerful weapon used best and most by the greedy among us.

    The “two party” system, like children
    on a seesaw, keep it going up and down, with long stops
    in between. Obscene money provides the fuel.

    Our Governor/Businessman; just playing the game.
    And how many among us are without flaw? NONE!!!
    And how many among us are Governor? None.

  33. Fred Woogmaster :

    The “none” in the last line was not intentional – I was thinking “one”.

    Perhaps the “mistake” represents my deep disappointment –
    and there is Hope, of that I am certain.

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