In what must seem like deja vu all over again, Prince Edward County residents are learning of the sleight-of-hand that routinely passes for governance in their county. Wilkie Chaffin, a writer for the Southside Messenger, has been detailing some of these abuses, partly because they need to be heard by residents, and partly due to the fact that the Farmville Herald doesn’t cover items that might be embarrassing to their friends. And by ‘friends’, I mean the people that control county government right now.
In a very revealing article in the Messenger a few weeks ago, Mr Chaffin laid out the facts as to whether there is or ever was a USDA Rural Development loan guarantee by that organization for the ill-conceived Poplar Hill Golf Course.
Mr Chaffin spent several months researching this and asking for documents. What he found is a textbook case of the government doing whatever it wants to do without oversight or even the truth. In 1999, a Community Development Authority was authorized by the supervisors, in order to develop a golf course on land in the county, just south of the Town of Farmville limits.
Mr. Chaffin picks up the story from there.
In April of 2007, Norm Krueger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Poplar Hill Community Development Authority (CDA), told the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors that the CDA did not have a golf course construction loan guarantee from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). On numerous occasions over the previous three years, CDA officials have said that there was a guarantee from the Rural Development office of USDA for an $8.8 million loan to build the Poplar Hill golf course (now called the Manor Golf Club) in Prince Edward County. Although the privately owned land at Poplar Hill has recently been sold to the Herberton Group, the golf course is still publicly owned by the Poplar Hill CDA. Documents obtained by this reporter from the United States Department of Agriculture and other sources, along with an interview with a USDA official, provide an interesting story about the firm used as the lender/broker for the loan, the numerous applications for the loan guarantee, and the responses by USDA, and about what happened after an initial favorable USDA response. In particular, two specific conclusions about the loan are evident: a) the CDA never actually had a USDA loan guarantee, and b) the firm chosen to act as broker for the loan and to represent the CDA in applying for the USDA loan guarantee had serious legal problems.
There are two more short passages that I will quote.
Another USDA concern was that the closing documents had not been received by the USDA Bond Council nearly eleven months after the closing of the loan. This was a violation of USDA requirements. The other two concerns mentioned in this letter had to do with proposed CDA activities that might have an impact on the CDA’s financing. USDA records indicate that neither the lender, Dolphin & Bradbury, nor the CDA ever responded to this letter. In any case, the conditional loan requirements for the USDA loan guarantee were not met by the deadline of May 30, 2006. The money for the possible loan guarantee was “deobligated” in early 2007. In spite of what CDA officials had been saying over more than a two year period, a July 12, 2007 USDA letter to this reporter stated that Dolphin & Bradbury “never requested that Rural Development issue a Loan Note Guarantee and never asked for an extension of time to meet these [loan guarantee] conditions.”
According to a 7-17-07 article in The Bond Buyer, Robert Bradbury reported that Dolphin & Bradbury still exists as a corporation, but has been shut down. In spite of the fact that Dolphin & Bradbury has ceased operations since its two securities fraud problems, it is still the lender under the terms of the Prince Edward loan documents. According to Norm Krueger, Chairman of the Prince Edward community development authority Board of Directors, the money for the loan was obtained when Dolphin & Bradbury sold Certificates of Participation in the loan to institutional investors. A Certificate of Participation (COP) is a share of the revenues of an agreement made by a governmental agency. The Prince Edward County Poplar Hill Community Development Authority remains obligated to these COP holders.
Normally, I wouldn’t quote such an extensive portion of a piece in a newspaper. In this case, even these quotes don’t do this story justice. It appears that Prince Edward County is on the hook for the remainder of the loan amount in the CDA affair. Do citizens know? Probably not. Will the largest local paper tell them anything about it? Not likely.
This is just one more example of what is, in my humble opinion, abuses of governmental powers to enrich the cronies and friends of those with the power. My previous article, talking about the situation with a land deal in the county, is another example. I can’t say when things will change in that county. I hope it is soon, for the sake of honesty and good governance.