by Robert Maynard
Last year the Vermont media touched on a real-estate deal, which Governor Shumlin made that seemed too good to be totally above board. Now the seller of the property feels that the Governor took advantage of him and the FBI has even got into the act by investigating the deal. When the subject was first raised Governor Shumlin seemed to get defensive over questions about the deal from press figures and got pretty aggressive with Vermont Press Bureau’s Peter Hirschfeld over the subject of the LLC he formed with some friends to buy the property. The part in question was whether there was some political quid pro quo going on as each of the “friends” had donated $1000 to Peter Shumlin’s 2012 campaign. Here is an excerpt from the exchange in Vermont Digger between Shumlin and Hirschfeld, who broke the story:
When Hirschfeld pressed the governor about why he had purchased the property through a limited liability corporation for the property, Shumlin went on the offensive.
“Are you going to criticize me now for forming an LLC?” Shumlin asked. “With the rest of Vermont and America? I just wondered why you would want to? I’m just wondering what you’re digging for, Peter? Do you work for the Vermont Press Bureau or the National Enquirer? Did you get a promotion?”
The story has popped up again as Jeremy Dodge, the guy who sold the property to begin with, has come forward to claim that he now believes that Governor Shumlin took advantage of him at a time that he owed a lot of back taxes on the home. Dodge argues that he later discovered that he had more options than Governor Shumlin had led him to believe when the Governor had approached him to propose the sale. As pointed out in the WCAX clip, Dodge claimed that the Governor had asked him not to talk to reporters about the deal:
Shumlin has made money off real estate deals. According to tax returns released during a previous campaign, he holds several properties and is worth millions of dollars. Dodge is an ex-con on food stamps earning less than $8,000 a year. Dodge says he couldn’t afford an attorney, so Shumlin offered up his lawyer and asked Dodge not to talk to reporters about the deal.
“I was definitely outgunned,” Dodge said. “You know, he’s got millions or whatever he’s got and I had nothing.”
Apparently, someone was concerned enough about what was going on to tip off the FBI, who ended up looking into it:
The land deal attracted the attention of federal authorities. Corliss says an FBI agent came to his door Monday, telling him he was investigating the legality of the deal. The agent even left a card.
“He asked me what I thought Jerry’s mental ability was. He asked me if I thought there was something wrong with the buy,” Corliss said.
WCAX News confirmed the FBI’s involvement. The U.S. Attorney for Vermont said agents followed up on a tip. Authorities would not tell us what they were looking for, but say there is no active investigation.