From swamp to wetlands to windfall

Regardless of how the case comes out, this week's indictment of a former powerful state senator's son-in-law was an important statement that no one is above the law.

And we are eager to see all the facts come out about a land deal that turned a $25,000 swamp into a taxpayer-bought $265,850 "wetlands" - and a $240,000 windfall for Donna and Ashby Krouse, daughter and son-in-law of former state Sen. Don Cheeks of Augusta.

Mr. Krouse, who also is facing potential action against his real estate appraiser's license, appears to have engineered the donation of the land near the Burke/Richmond County line from owner William Hatcher to the Hale House Foundation, an Augusta charity. The Krouses then bought the land from Hale House for $25,000 - and subsequently sold it to the state for $265,850 after Cheeks and his son-in-law met with a state Department of Transportation biologist.

There are so many questions yet unanswered.

Such as why Hale House never got the full benefit of the property that was donated to it - selling it to Krouse, an appraiser, for 10 percent of its apparent worth.

Such as why Krouse signed an affidavit declaring "no financial interest, either present or contemplated, in the opinion of value put on this property" - when it was reportedly his suggestion to Hatcher to donate it in the first place.

Such as how the valuation of the land by the government was appealed without Hatcher's permission.

And how the land became so much more valuable when in the hands of Cheeks' son-in-law.

The legality of it all is almost secondary to the ethics of it: A piece of land appears to have been laundered through a local charity and sold to the state at great profit by a relative of a then-member of the Senate Transportation and Appropriations committees.

At the very least, it appears Mr. Hatcher, Hale House Foundation and state taxpayers have been quite taken advantage of.

If this is not the case, we look forward to a very different story emerging from the courts.

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Mon, 03/27/2017 - 21:46

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