Attorney General Jack Conway looks into Drumanard Estate sale
By Curtis Morrison
Last week, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway sent a letter to J. Todd Shipp, the Senior Council for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
In that letter, Conway requested Shipp provide his office with copies of the appraisals KYTC used to negotiate the $8.3 million purchase of the Drumanard Estate from the Soterion Corporation.
The Drumanard Estate is the property and home atop the land where two tunnels will soon be bored for the Southern approach to the East End bridge component of the Ohio River Bridges Project.
Conway also requested that Shipp provide any documents that helped ensure laws were followed in negotiating the purchase of property.
He also wants the process KYTC uses to make sure a transaction is indeed an “honest arm’s length transaction,” Conway said.
Conway referenced the 13 inquires in a March open records request made to the KYTC by Clarence Hixson, an attorney for Citizens for the Advancement of Regional Transportation.
Most of Hixson’s open records requests were rejected as the KYTC claims disclosing about damn near anything about the Drumanard negotiation went down will compromise ongoing and future purchases by KYTC.
The root of Hixson’s inquiry was his apprehensiveness with anonymous shareholders of Soterion receiving $8.3 million in taxpayer funds without anyone from KYTC checking to see who they were.
Hypothetically, a Soterion stockholder could have been a KYTC employee, and no one would have been the wiser. These kinds of suspicions are made worse when only one of the four KYTC signatures on the Drumanard purchase contract was even legible.
Conway’s inquiry into how the KYTC deals with corporations may reveal some better practices Metro Louisville could consider as well.
Remember, both the seller and purchaser of Whiskey Row were corporations that benefited from Metro Louisville’s subsidization of the deal, yet there was never an attempt by Metro Louisville to determine the identity of all the shareholders of any of the corporations involved.
While Mayor Greg Fischer’s father at one time had ownership interests in Whiskey Row, the mayor’s assurance that his father wasn’t an owner anymore was just something we all had to accept.
Back to the Drumanard … even the chandeliers do not stay with the property, as the seller negotiated to keep those in the deal. While photographs of those fixtures were included in the March 1, 2012 purchase agreement, those photographs were redacted when the contract was sent to us by KYTC because:
…their release would constitute an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the occupant. Your request for a photograph of one of the chandeliers excluded in the sale is denied.
While anonymous Soterion stockholders are sitting fat and happy beneath chandeliers so amazing we aren’t even allowed to see pictures of, Kentuckians are sitting in the dark.
In the dark on the identity of stockholders who ultimately received the taxpayer money. In the dark on how the $8.3 million figure was negotiated. In the dark on why the KYTC continues to exploit loopholes in open records law to subvert transparency.
Conway requested receipt of the appraisals, answers to multiple questions and inquires from Shipp by this Friday, June 22.
See Conway’s complete letter here.
About Curtis Morrison: Curtis Morrison is a journalist who blogs at Louisville Courant. Morrison is a political activist, active in historic-preservation efforts.