The Richmond Register

Editorials

April 13, 2011

OUR VIEW – Story reported facts, readers draw own conclusions

RICHMOND — Did you know that it gives the impression of impropriety to report how much a county building is worth, how much the county owes on said building and the amount for which they are willing to sell it?

Neither did we.

On Tuesday, the fiscal court learned that Downtown Holdings, a Richmond company owned by Michael Eaves and former senator Ed Worley, withdrew its bid to purchase the county’s old family court building.

The company’s letter to Judge/Executive Kent Clark, dated April 4, cites a March 29 story in the Richmond Register as its reason to take back its bid.

The story “implied that there was some impropriety in the way in which the Fiscal Court elected to proceed for the sale of this building, or (and perhaps and) our interest in purchasing same,” the letter reads.

It goes on to say that the reporter failed to mention that Downtown Holdings was the only bidder for the property.

Interesting.

Here are the first three sentences of our March 29 story:

“The county will be taking more than a $100,000 loss if a bid is awarded selling the old family court building on First Street.

A local company has bid $530,000 on the building, which is $110,000 less than what the county still owes for the property.

The fiscal court received only one bid in February for the purchase of the building, which came from Richmond-based Downtown Holdings, owned by Michael Eaves and Ed Worley.”

Did anyone at Downtown Holdings actually read the story?

To break it down for them, here is what the story reported, in a nutshell. It said the county owes $640,000 on the property, one bid was received for $530,000 (the minimum bid the county would accept) from Downtown Holdings, and the county would be taking a loss of $110,000. We quoted Clark as saying, “We feel like it’s better to get out of a bad deal and take a little loss and move on with life. We had to do something. It was a losing proposition for us.”

We also quoted the appraised amount for the building as $900,000, noting it was last appraised in 2000.

In their estimation, reporting those facts somehow gave an impression of impropriety. Really?

Readers were left to their own conclusions about whether a good deal was being made. We made no comment.

If we hadn’t reported the financial aspects of the sale of county property, we would have been neglecting our job. The Farris Parks Annex is owned by the taxpayers of Madison County, not Clark or the magistrates. Shouldn’t we know how much we owe on our building?

Downtown Holdings’ letter to Clark concludes by apologizing “for any embarrassment this has caused you or the magistrates.”

We’re not sure where the embarrassment comes in, unless perhaps the fiscal court is feeling a little red-faced about offering to sell a building for a loss.

But we did not make that decision. We just told you about it.

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    Neither did we.

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