Delaware
Land Scam

State Land Sold For Pennies To Carney & Biden Crony With No Public Notice Or Auction

An investigation by citizen watchdog Sam Chick
For general & press inquiries, contact watchdog@delawarelandscam.com

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THE DELAWARE LAND SCAM

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DELAWARE LAND SCAM

11 acres of land bought by the State of Delaware in October 2008 (in the midst of the last economic crash) for $2.78 million were sold by the Carney administration on New Year’s Eve 2018 for $275,000, less than ten cents on the dollar of the purchase price, without public notice or auction to a well-connected political insider, John Paradee.

6 months later a tax subsidy was introduced & passed by Paradee's state senator brother Trey Paradee which would have made the property much more valuable. Two weeks later those 11 acres plus 10 adjacent acres were listed for sale for $6,500,000.

Despite previous media attention to related scandals concerning this property, key facts about this transaction, including the facts that it was purchased from the State of Delaware, how much it sold for, and how much it was originally purchased for, were not uncovered or reported on prior to this investigation.

2008 State Purchase - 3+- acres for $670,000

2008 State Purchase - 8+- acres for $2,110,000

2018 State Sale - Combined 11.6+- Acres for $275,000

JMER Properties LLC / John Paradee Mortgage Document

Purchased by Delaware for $0

Sold by Carney Administration for $0

Of the three 2018 purchasers, the largest investor (44% owner) was attorney John Paradee. Paradee is a major Delaware political insider: a supporter & fundraiser for Governor John Carney and career politician Joe Biden, brother of state senator Trey Paradee, and brother of Governor Carney's legal counsel and 2016 campaign finance director Jackie Paradee Mette


John Paradee, Delaware Governor John Carney, Senator Trey Paradee
Joe Biden & insider John Paradee on a golf outing

THE SALE WAS GIVEN SPECIAL TREATMENT

This transaction did not follow the standard procedures. In an email procured via FOIA, a state employee quotes the DelDOT secretary as ordering the sale to be expedited. Following emails describe the special treatment given to this transaction.

“Attached please find the routing for a request to dispose of state owned lands. This particular request is being handled a bit differently for various reasons, mainly, Sec. Cohan has asked that we expedite the process as quickly as we can.”

“The process that normally takes 30 days has been shaved back to just over a week by Sec. Cohan.”

“The original request started with the Secretary and her involvement continued throughout the process specifically to get it done as quickly as possible.”

According to Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 137 (b) 3, public notice must be given and state land must be sold at public auction at no less than 85% of its appraised value. For these 11 acres there was no public notice, no auction, and the land was sold for significantly less than the appraised value.

Delaware Code, Title 17 Highways, Chapter 1, § 137 (b) Acquisition and sale of real property


John Paradee hosts 2016 Carney fundraiser at his home

A DelDOT review of the parcel found that it did not meet 3 out of 5 criteria for minimal independent utility and that the site had potential for commercial development.

In an email to John Paradee, the Department of Transportation employee handling this transaction details information being withheld from an adjacent landowner who may have had interest in purchasing these parcels had he been given the full range of options.

The employee was worried that potential additional future DelDOT land purchase shenanigans “would land us all in the newspaper.”

A TAX SUBSIDY & CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Five days before the end of legislative session in June of 2019, six months after John Paradee & friends acquired the land from the Carney administration, John's brother Senator Trey Paradee & fellow attorney Representative Sean Lynn introduced and passed lodging tax legislation in the Delaware General Assembly that would greatly benefit his land-owning brother.

The bill imposed a 3% tax (on top of the existing 8% Delaware lodging tax) on hotels and motels in Kent County, with the stipulation that all the tax proceeds would fund the Delaware Turf Sports Complex (whose board of directors John Paradee also sat on) which is directly across Rt. 1 from Paradee’s property. This tax subsidy was in addition to the already generous 85 acres leased to the Sports Complex by Kent County for $1, millions of dollars in state & county government grants, and a partial guarantee for the complex’s $20 million construction bond.

[Note: The sports complex is not a public park or government-owned. Before being approved, sports complex backers assured Kent County that it would require no ongoing taxpayer support in order to be successful.]

If implemented, this tax subsidy would have greatly increased the value of the land surrounding the Sports Complex. It would have penalized all county hotels and motels and directly benefited John Paradee's neighboring commercial development and the hotel he intends to place there.


John Paradee & Joe Biden

In conversations with The News Journal, some commissioners said they first heard about the bill when reading about it in the paper shortly before it passed. “I’m going to be one of the decision-makers and I’m finding out just like my next-door neighbor,” said Kent County Commissioner Glen Howell, “Either they were trying to be secretive or they just didn’t even bother to inform us.”

Kent County Commissioners say they did not ask for proposed hotel tax - News Journal 8/15/2019

On July 12, 2019, Paradee’s 21 acre commercial development, which includes the 11 acres purchased at a deep discount from the Carney administration, was listed on the LoopNet commercial real estate site with a sale price of $6.5 million.

Purchased for $25,000 per acre from the state on New Year’s Eve 2018, those 11.6+- acres are now being valued from $232,000 to $309,000 per acre, or $2.5 million to $3.4 million in total.


John Paradee & Governor John Carney

PUBLIC OUTCRY & MEDIA EXPOSURE

The hastily passed lodging tax snuck in at the end of legislative session quickly became the target of public ire.

Citizen watchdog Sam Chick interviews with Delaware 105.9 radio host Rob Sussman regarding Kent County lodging tax shady dealings - 7/22/2019

Listen:

New Kent County hotel tax proceeds would go to private entity, raise questions about potential conflict - News Journal 8/15/2019

Kent County residents question proposed lodging tax revenue to benefit DE Turf - Delaware Public Media 8/18/2019

Kent County lodging tax splits public at forum - Delaware State News 8/19/2019

Hard look needed at DE Turf - News Journal Opinion 8/29/2019

Lodging tax debate in Kent raises more questions - Delaware Business Times 9/3/2019

Why the DE Turf vote has some Delaware lawmakers second-guessing - News Journal 10/18/2019

“The Delaware Way is not a cooperative, a cordial group of compromising elected officials,’’ Representative John Kowalko told WHYY. “The Delaware Way is a pathway where power begets power and power gets to keep power.”

Kowalko thinks that some lawmakers are not speaking out about their vote because they don't want leadership to accuse them of publicly attacking their own colleagues. He also guessed that some lawmakers are “too willing” to protect “the person they may suspect of having had a special interest in this."

Senator Dave Lawson: "I had no idea there were investments involved and other things going on. My concern would have been the conflict of interest there. It just doesn’t taste right. It doesn’t smell right.”

"I didn't know about it," said Representative Sean Lynn, who helped sponsor the bill. "How would I?"

Law to give taxpayer money to Delaware sports facility would benefit sponsor’s brother - WHYY 11/1/2019

Governor Carney’s office refused to answer a News Journal inquiry asking if John and Trey’s sister Jackie Paradee Mette, legal counsel to Governor Carney, did the legal analysis of the bill for the Governor’s office. - News Journal 10/28/2019


Jackie Paradee Mette, Jill Biden, John Paradee at a 2016 Carney for Governor fundraiser organized by Mette and headlined by Joe Biden

PAY TO PLAY

Bill sponsor Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, said he had "no idea" about his brother's involvement in the development or that he sat on DE Turf's board. - News Journal 10/18/2019

This plea of ignorance is contradicted by a 2014 article about previous accusations of political favoritism where John Paradee is described as writing the organization's bylaws and then-representative Trey Paradee at that time claiming no knowledge of his brother's nearby land ownership.

Sen. Paradee: My family did not plot to pass DE Turf bill - News Journal 10/31/21019

Interchange would benefit backers of sports complex - News Journal 10/4/2014

After public outcry and media exposure, the tax was halted by Kent County’s local government, John Paradee resigned from the Sports Complex board, and the Sports Complex tax directive was repealed by the General Assembly in January 2020.

State senator's brother resigns from DE Turf board after investigation, hotel tax bill controversy - News Journal 11/19/2019

Delaware lawmakers undo Kent County hotel tax to fund DE Turf sports complex - News Journal 1/29/2020


Joe Biden & John Paradee

Despite the apparent conflict of interest and shady dealings, nothing was investigated

Open government advocates urge ethics oversight in wake of Kent County lodging tax questions - Delaware Public Media 11/5/2019

Here's why the Delaware Senate won't open an ethics investigation after the DE Turf bill - News Journal 12/3/2019

After numerous delays, DelDOT still has not produced all of the records requested via the Freedom Of Information Act (originally filed 12/10/19)

View FOIA Request


Joe Biden & John Paradee selfie john-carney-john-paradee-land-scam-square.jpg

ONGOING SCANDAL

The development of this are has been subject to public scrutiny and questions about insider dealing previously

Woodshaven Residents Express Overpass Concerns - Milford Live 4/9/2013

"To me, it looked like a political move, rather than a move for public safety. Hardly anyone uses that intersection there, versus heavier traffic at the Milford intersection." - Senator Gary Simpson

“Funding for the [Milford Rt 14] interchange was postponed again this year, delaying construction until at least 2020. Emmett Venett, head of the Woods Haven Civic Association, says DelDOT instead greenlighted construction of an overpass project south of Frederica.”

Interchange construction priority changes politically motivated - News Journal 7/14/13

S. Frederica Overpass prioritized over Milford, political move. Accident demonstrates danger at Milford intersection - Milford Live 8/20/13

Neighbors Worry Push for Overpass on DE 1 Will Hurt Prospects for Different Overpass - WBOC 9/13/14

New system again places South Frederica overpass at bottom of DelDOT priority list - Milford Beacon 9/26/14

In September 2014 the South Frederica interchange near the future sports complex and John Paradee’s land ranked 89 out of 98 on the DelDOT construction priority list. Not long after, the $29 million overpass project would mysteriously be moved to the top of the priority list and construction begins in March 2016. Construction of the Sports Complex would begin two months later.

Interchange would benefit backers of sports complex - News Journal 10/4/2014

Big Spending on Delaware Highways - Delmarva Public Radio 8/5/2015

State officials break ground in South Frederica: Overpass seen as key to area’s growth, safety - Dover Post 3/20/16

Dirt turned for DE Turf Sports Complex - News Journal 5/12/2016


John & Trey Paradee with 2009-2016 Delaware Governor Jack Markell

MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN

Why was there no public notice of the land for sale?

Why was there no public auction?

Why was the land sold for less than the appraised value?

Who ordered the 2018 sale to be expedited and why?

Why is there such a massive discrepancy between the $2.78 million state purchase price in 2008 vs. $275,000 sale price in 2018?

Why were 11 acres purchased by the state for $2.78 million on October 20, 2008 in the midst of a severe economic crisis?

STAY UPDATED ON
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WHAT'S NEXT?

A letter was sent by an attorney representing Sam Chick demanding answers to these questions.

Contact your elected representatives and urge them to initiate an investigation into this land scam:

List of Delaware Elected Officials

Contact local media and ask them to cover this story:

editor@delawareonline.com

newsroom@newszap.com

news@wboc.com

wdelnews@wdel.com

news@wgmd.com

info@delawarepublic.org

editor@delawarelive.com

desk@firststateupdate.com

newsroom@wmdt.com

editor@doverpost.com

rchase@ap.org

newsdesk@cbs3.com

wnewshub@delmarvanow.com

newsroom@whyy.org

newsroom@wilm.com

newsroom@wrdetv.com

jointheaction@6abc.com

news@DelawareBusinessTimes.com

wpvi-tv.newsdesk@abc.com

news@wrde.com

news@delawarefirst.org

editor@communitypub.com

editor@milfordbeacon.com

editor@sussexcountian.com

fox29.newsdesk@foxtv.com

news@delaware1059.com

newsroom@CapeGazette.com

DELAWARE WATCHDOG

All of the information gathered in this investigation is available for public download here

This collection includes a timeline of events, FOIA documents, title searches, and more. Members of the public are encouraged to look through these documents and investigate on their own.

For general & press inquiries, contact watchdog@delawarelandscam.com

A special thanks to the many individuals who participated in uncovering the truth behind this corrupt scandal, and further thanks to those who share this important public information and continue to pursue accountability from our government.

ABOUT SAM CHICK

My name is Sam Chick. I’m a citizen watchdog born & raised in Delaware who cares deeply about good government in our state.

The purpose of this website is to disseminate information for the public good. This information is the culmination of a citizen-led investigation: documents from a Freedom of Information Act request, title searches, publicly available records, and years of pre-existing media coverage.

The abuse of our government for private gain is a serious problem in the state of Delaware. This corruption must not be tolerated.

As you read through this saga, complete with evidence so that you are able to verify this proof on your own, please ask yourself this question:

How many other unnoticed scams like this have been perpetrated against the State of Delaware by political insiders?


Sam Chick, photo by Claire Sibley

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