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Gov. Deal sells Gainesville auto salvage business

POSTED: July 4, 2013 12:30 a.m.

Gov. Nathan Deal and business partner Ken Cronan have sold their Gainesville Salvage and Disposal business in Hall County.

Jimmy Allen, trustee for Deal’s blind trust, which includes all his assets and debts, confirmed the sale Wednesday evening.

Deal faces re-election next year. In his first run for governor in 2010, the business was the source of ethics charges made against the former Hall County congressman.

Deal and Cronan retain ownership of the land

The salvage business contracted with the state to provide space for state employees to inspect rebuilt vehicles.

Allen said he decided to sell the business because he was offered a good deal. He declined to name the purchaser or the price.

Attempts to reach Randy Evans, Deal’s attorney, at his place of business and through email were unsuccessful.

“The governor’s I guess 69 or 70 (he turns 71 on Aug. 25),” Allen said. “He probably wouldn’t be in a business like that forever anyway and the people that came along that wanted to buy it had a strong interest in it, so we thought it was a good offer and just decided to take it while we had the opportunity to.”

Before running for governor, Deal faced allegations he violated congressional ethics rules by lobbying state officials to protect his auto salvage business at 1602 Athens Highway.

Ethics claims were made in 2009 against Deal by a Washington-based advocacy group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent agency. CREW claimed Deal used his influence as a congressman to benefit from his state contract.

The probe was dropped when Deal resigned his seat the next spring to focus on his race for governor.

A report from the OCE shortly after Deal resigned said Deal may have violated six House ethics rules by earning too much outside income and by lobbying state officials to protect his salvage business.

Deal denied any wrongdoing, and claimed the decision to release the report a week after his resignation was politically motivated.

“I have done nothing wrong.” Deal said in March 2010. “I think this report shows I have done nothing wrong. ... No one is going to coerce me out of this race.”

Allen said nothing “funny” happened with the sale, that it was just a business decision that Cronan and Allen agreed on. Allen said they used the money to pay some debts. The purchase closed about 60 days ago, the trustee said.

“It just kind of came out of the blue, these people just came and contacted and started talking to us about buying it,” Allen said. “One thing led to another and we just negotiated and sold it.”

Also at issue three years ago was $75,000 Deal earned from his disposal business in 2008. According to the ethics report, Deal was issued a W-2 form for the payments in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Because the income was reported on W-2 forms, it is considered earned income. However, Deal listed it as dividend income on his congressional financial disclosure forms.

Documents obtained by The Times in late 2010 showed Deal used his office and staff to help obtain zoning and permits for a landfill behind his Gainesville auto salvage business. Deal was financially invested in the landfill until 2003 but later helped Cronan with the venture.

The landfill, Gainesville Waste and Recycling on Athens Highway, became another controversy when Cronan requested modifying the construction/demolition landfill and inert landfill zoning to allow food waste composting, which was approved in June 2012.

Tom Oliver, former Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman, wrote two letters to Jeffrey Cown, then program manager of the solid waste management program, in November 2011 saying composting on the property complied with local zoning and land-use laws.

County officials said the issue came to light after they fielded numerous complaints about the smell emanating from the landfill. Commissioners sent a letter to Cown in December that clarified food waste wasn’t allowed.

Current Board Chairman Richard Mecum sent Cown a letter dated May 22 saying that the landfill complies with county zoning and land use ordinances.


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