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Ga. official lease deal surfaces
'Mutual decision' made by Deal, apppointee over possible conflict of interest
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A member of Georgia’s State Properties Commission resigned after a newspaper discovered he signed a $1.4 million deal to lease office space to the state while serving on the panel.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday reported details of the transaction.

There’s no law or guideline prohibiting the deal involving Dr. Larry “Jeff” Payne, the Journal-Constitution reported.

However, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal said it presents the appearance of a conflict of interest. Payne’s resignation was a “mutual decision” between him and the governor, a spokesman for Deal said.

At issue is office space the Department of Revenue agreed to lease from Payne in Gainesville. The agreement would pay Payne $140,000 annually for 10 years.

The State Properties Commission finds office space for state agencies and negotiates with building owners.

Payne said the state approached his broker about the property weeks before he was appointed to the commission. He said he didn’t use his position to steer the deal in his favor.

Payne said he didn’t alert the commission that it was his building because he did not want favorable treatment.

“I did not want anybody to think that I was influencing their decision,” Payne said.

Deal, who chairs the State Properties Commission, considered canceling the lease with Payne, but the state would then have to pay Payne a $229,000 early termination fee. So the lease remains in effect at the negotiated rate.

The lease was negotiated fairly and is a good deal for the state, said Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the governor.

“Gov. Deal has given this situation a close review,” Robinson said. “The record clearly shows that the state located this property and began negotiations on it before Dr. Payne was appointed to the Properties Commission and this transaction never at any time came before the board for a vote.”

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