Carney campaign sends cease and desist over pardon ad from PAC

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Gov. John Carney confirmed his gubernatorial campaign sent a cease and desist letter regarding advertising from a Political Action Committee over the pardon of a man now accused of plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

Carney labeled the advertising from Citizens for Transparency and Inclusionas misleading at his weekly Coronavirus press briefing.

Citizens for Transparency and Inclusion also published an ad regarding a land deal in Kent County.

The advertisement that was the subject of the letter involved Barry Croft, who was pardoned for crimes committed in the mid-1990s at the recommendation of the state Board of Pardons. Citizens for Transparency took Carney to task for the pardon, in spite of the offenses occurring more than two decades ago and no evidence at the time of questionable activities.

Click to access Carney-Pull-Down-Letter-10-19-20-DG.pdf

Carney also noted in the press conference that the Kent County landowners in question had filed suit against DelDOT, an action that would not seem to denote favorable treatment.

The land scam web page

The PAC has rolled out advertisements claiming that the Delaware Department of Transportation sold a piece of land at favorable terms to a developer with close ties to the governor and Democrats.

The advertisements are based on a web page known as DelawareLandScam.com. The page went live last week with its findings quickly picked up by Carney’s opponent Julieanne Murray. Identified as the author is Sam Chick, who. is described as a “citizen watchdog.”

Chick is also a former Republican candidate for the Delaware House.

The area highlighted in the TV ad is in the vicinity of the DETurf athletic fields complex and the controversial interchange that cleared the way for development in the area south of Dover.

In response to the website’s report, open government advocate John Flaherty this week wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan that posed a series of questions regarding the transactions.

Chick stated that DelDOT spokesman C.R. McLeod declined to answer his questions and told “me to get an attorney and make FOIA requests, that he wasn’t obligated to answer any questions.”
Chick claimed stated that “last Friday we also learned that DelDOT destroyed text messages between the secretary and John Paradee discussing/negotiating the transaction. DelDOT is required to retain real estate records, including all correspondence, for three years.”

Chris Coffey, a spokesman for the PAC, offered the following response:

“We refuse to be intimidated. In fact, this latest episode just reinforces our belief that now is the time to reject John Carney and the ‘Delaware Way’ that has failed to deliver for everyday Delawareans. We will continue to air this (pardon) advertisement until Governor Carney addresses the substance of our concerns, rather than just attacking our committee,” Coffey wrote.

PAC offshoot of ‘Pro-Business’ group

The Citizens PAC was formed by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, a group comprised of TransPerfect employees and others. The group that emerged during a battle over control of the New York company ended up in Chancery Court. Critics claim the group is bankrolled by TransPerfect owner Philip Shawe who remains unhappy over his treatment in Chancery.

PACs do not have to reveal the source of their funding but are barred from coordinating activities with a political candidate.

After initially going after Chancery Court, Citizens has turned its attention to Carney, who appoints chancellors.

Allegations have ranged from the land deal to the treatment of inmates at correctional centers. The group recently seized on the governor pardoning a man who is now charged n connection with a plot to kidnap the Michigan governor. The pardon came for offenses committed in the 1990s.

The Frederica-area intersection area first made headlines when Legislature passed a bill that would allow all proceeds from a Kent County hotel tax to be allocated to DETurf. The sports complex is located near the interchange.

It was noted at the time that Dover lawyer John Paradee, brother of a state senator representing the Dover area, owned land in the area of the interchange and was on the board of DETurf. Brother Trey Paradee had pushed for the use of the hotel tax for DETurf and took exception to any hints at conflicts of interest.John Paradee has been a donor to Democratic causes.

Chick’s website, which has the look and feel of an investigative journalism piece, offers a timeline of the land deals.At the bottom of the piece from Chick was a plea to reach out to media newsrooms with the expose.

DelDOT response

The Delaware Department of Transportation offered the following response to the report:

The acquisition of these parcels were approved through the Advanced Acquisition Committee on September 4, 2007. The reason for this acquisition was in connection with our Corridor Capacity Program and the South Frederica Interchange project. Basically, we denied a proposed development request as we did not want additional access points to Route 1 from this parcel, and knowing that we would likely need some of this property for the future project, DelDOT purchased the parcels to prevent that development from happening. An independent appraisal determined the value for both parcels to be $2.78 million, and DelDOT finalized the purchase in October 2008. The Department has to pay for the highest and best use of the properties it acquires.”

The statement continues, “DelDOT was approached about selling these two parcels in the summer of 2018 for an economic development project by the adjoining property owner. DelDOT no longer had a need for these parcels as the South Frederica Interchange project was complete. The project went through DelDOT’s regulatory process, 17 Delaware Code, Chapter 1, §137, for selling excess land. As these parcels were now landlocked, meaning there was no viable public access point, except to an adjoining landowner, the parcels appraised for a significantly lower amount in September 2018 for between $379,000 and $442,000.” The interested party initially offered nothing for the property, and then $100,000. In October 2018, the sale price of $275,000 was agreed to by both parties. This allowed DelDOT to no longer be responsible for this property and also hopefully see it become part of an economic development project in Kent County that will create jobs and go back on the Kent County property tax rolls.

The only “expediting” we can do on things like this is administratively, (basically putting them at the front of the line for processing) and we routinely do that for economic development projects. We have worked to streamline our process to foster economic growth across the state.

DelDOT notes that there will be no access to Route 1 from these parcels, and currently the property owners, the same ones who bought it from DelDOT, have now filed a lawsuit against DelDOT in Chancery Court over this issue.”

(An earlier version of the story indicated that the cease and desist order was related to the land deal).

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