Shumlin Willing To Void Sale

Montpelier — A lawyer for Gov. Peter Shumlin said yesterday the governor had offered a neighbor who sold Shumlin his property and then expressed remorse to sell the property back to the man.

Jerome Diamond, a former Vermont attorney general now in private law practice, said Shumlin decided to make the offer public “so the Dodge family knows he’s genuine in his desire to make them happy with regard to a resolution of this situation.”

Diamond said he did not know exactly how much Shumlin would ask to recoup from Jeremy Dodge for agreeing to sell the property next to Shumlin’s home back to Dodge. He said it would be “significantly less” than the $58,000 sale price the two agreed upon last year.

Dodge did not respond to a message left on his cell phone.

The news was the latest in a running controversy that erupted two weeks ago with media reports that Dodge was unhappy with the deal in which he sold his longtime family home and 16 acres to Shumlin, who had bought land next door last year and built a house.

After Dodge went public with his complaints, Shumlin came under fire from some quarters, with critics contending he had taken advantage of a neighbor with a ninth-grade education.

The sale price Shumlin and Dodge negotiated last year included several provisions, including permission for Dodge to continue living in the home temporarily and a promise by Shumlin that he would pay Dodge $15,000 when he moved out.

Diamond said Shumlin would be hoping to recoup a $17,000 tax bill he paid to keep the property out of a tax sale, more than $2,000 in child support payments owed by Dodge and for some repairs on the house.

Diamond said the governor had other proposals — “I know of three or four” — but didn’t want to provide details. He said the governor didn’t want to negotiate in public, but wanted to make clear he was trying to do right by Dodge.

Meanwhile, a group of House Republicans yesterday called for an independent review of the deal.

Kurt Wright, R-Burlington, said he’s troubled by many unanswered questions involving a deal that allowed the Governor to purchase the land bordering his property in East Montpelier for well under the assessed value.

Wright said his call for an inquiry is motivated by questions he hears people asking and not by politics, noting the real estate deal was not a typical case of one person selling land to another person.

“I think that when you’re talking about the Governor of the state of Vermont, the most powerful man in the state, that there is a higher burden that we expect a high level of conduct from the person that leads this state,” said Wright. “You just can’t say hey it’s a simple real estate deal between me and my neighbor and it’s private.”

Diamond said there’s no need to have an independent review because the state has a process in place where complaints can be lodged to protect adults at risk.

— Vermont Public Radio contributed to this story.