Though it’s not my favorite movie of the Star Wars saga, the premise of The Phantom Menace is a good one. We begin with a few officials bending laws for personal gain. It’s a familiar occurrence in life, but it just didn’t feel right; there had to be something else at work. We later learn that the real problem is that the Chancellor is a Sith Lord, a much bigger deal.
There are no Sith Lords in Gwinnett County—nor the world for that matter—but I think we have now uncovered something more than a few politicians trying to score points as good guys for bringing a baseball team to town. Some discussion in Rick Badie’s AJC blog led to an interesting discovery. I am merely reporting what others have uncovered.
On October 18, 2007, a corporation operated by County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly purchased a large tract of land across the street from the site of the new Gwinnett Braves stadium. You can find a map on the Gwinnett County Tax Assessor’s site. The lot is shaded and is numbered 7146 002. The Gwinnett Braves stadium is being built across Buford Drive just south of Rock Springs Road.
The owner is not immediately apparent until you dig into government records. The listed owner of the lot is listed as I-85/GA 20 VENTURES INC (click on “View Details”).
Who runs I-85/GA 20 Ventures, Inc.? To find this out, we can go to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Corporation Division and search the record of corporations. There we find the following: Commissioner Kenerly is the CEO, CFO, Secretary, and Registered Agent of the corporation.
Next, let’s analyze the date of purchase of the land. When did discussion of bringing the Braves to Gwinnett begin? According to Daily Report, serious talks with the Braves began in October 2007.
Co-founding partner R. Lee Tucker Jr. and associate Christopher T. Wilson were lead counsel to the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau on its negotiations with the Braves on moving the team’s AAA International League franchise to Gwinnett from Richmond, Va.
Tucker and Wilson said they’ve been in talks with the Braves on behalf of their client since October and there is much more legal work left to be completed, such as finalizing a long-term agreement between the Braves and Gwinnett and hammering out the details of a lease agreement on a new stadium.
Here is what we know. The County was engaged in negotiations with the Braves to bring its Triple-A club to Gwinnett
, and a sitting commissioner possibly used this inside information to purchase land that would benefit from increased traffic (see the update below). Furthermore, after the land purchase was made, and negotiations were ongoing, the commissioner had strong financial incentives to make sure the deal happened.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, where the Board allocated an additional $19 million to the stadium, Kenerly was bubbling with excitement over the new stadium.
“I’m excited,” said Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, who likened the decision to imposing the same standards on the county as he did in a rezoning case that day. “It’s going to cost more money, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be better for the community.”
UPDATE: AJC is reporting that the October sale of land was a transfer to of a 50 percent stake to his partners, not a new acquisition of land.