By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Deal discontinues business agreement with state
Placeholder Image

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal and his business partner, Ken Cronan, have chosen not to continue a 20-year-long business deal with the state.

Gainesville Salvage Disposal, a company owned by Cronan and Deal, is no longer listed on the state Department of Revenue’s Web site as an inspection station for salvaged vehicles.

Cronan, who oversees the daily operations of Gainesville Salvage Disposal, withdrew the company’s application to be involved in the state’s new, privatized inspection program, said Reg Lansberry, a spokesman for the state Department
of Revenue.

When contacted by The Times on Wednesday, Deal’s staff referred all questions to Cronan. Cronan did not return a call from The Times seeking comment Wednesday. Instead, he issued a statement that he did not believe the privatized inspection program would meet the "safety threshold of the state-operated program" that Gainesville Salvage Disposal participated in for 20 years.

Deal is a candidate for governor in 2010.

Gainesville Salvage is primarily an auction yard for totaled vehicles, but, until recently, the business served as a site for state employees to inspect rebuilt vehicles twice a month — a deal it had with the state since shortly after the business opened in 1990.

Deal’s involvement in the program came under fire two months ago after reports that he intervened when Department of Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham tried to privatize the state salvage inspection program. Graham oversees the program, and said at the time that privatization would make the program more competitive.

Deal raised questions about the program’s safety, if privatized, and scheduled three meetings with Graham. Deal’s congressional Chief of Staff Chris Riley arranged the meetings through Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle using his congressional e-mail account.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint against Deal with the Office of Congressional Ethics in August, alleging Deal used his position as a member of Congress to protect his personal business.

The organization based its complaint on a report that appeared in August in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The report implied that Deal pulled strings with help from Cagle to save the state-operated inspection program.

Gainesville Salvage Disposal personally earns Deal about $150,000 a year, according to reports filed with the U.S. House of Representatives.

Graham’s privatized inspection program began last month, and limited business owners like Gainesville Salvage Disposal from charging more than $50 for allowing the inspections to take place at their businesses.

When it participated in the program, Gainesville Salvage Disposal charged vehicle owners $100 to use the site for the vehicle inspection — the highest of all the state’s inspection sites.

State records show that the business did apply under the new guidelines, but on Sept. 10 Cronan withdrew the application. Lansberry said Cronan withdrew the application during a visit to the Department of Revenue’s offices, but would not comment on the nature or the timing of Cronan’s visit to the department.

Cronan’s statement, issued Wednesday, did not indicate any problem with the department’s imposed limit on fees. Instead, the businessman said he was concerned that there was a reduction in the safety requirements for the inspection of rebuilt vehicles. He said the new program could be a liability issue for Gainesville Salvage Disposal, and would put consumers at risk of purchasing potentially dangerous vehicles.

"It will not be long before word gets around among rebuilders as to which stations are less than honest and will hand out approved inspections on a wink, a nod and the slip of a Benjamin," Cronan’s statement read. "This was more than a business decision, it was a moral decision."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.