TN PAR Farmers Market Land Deal
“local tax dollars are the local’s business”
Little Chicago Watch has been investigating the grassroots-volunteer case, we call, “TN Par Farm” for approximately two years. Over this two year period, we have exchanged research with community organizations and professionals from many sectors of the community, including investigative journalists and real estate professionals.
Our approach was to begin where a partial investigation conducted by the Times Free Press Newspaper ended in about 2008. We have completed our examination of an extensive financial and procedural base of documents, and have determined how the taxpayers were fraudulently charged market price, and required to fund known pollution abatement at the Farmers Market property. Our findings are solidly based upon appraisal(s) and environmental records, not opinion.
Taxpayers were financially taken by the Thompson property owners of record through failure to disclose known and adverse environmental conditions on the property, with the enabling assistance of those charged with protecting public resources, City Council and Mayor Littlefield.
It is undisputed that the licensed appraiser reported that the Thompson family refused to disclose to the appraiser known and adverse information that would have impacted market value estimates.
The facts are complex and rooted in state procurement and real estate disclosure requests by a licensed appraiser contracted by the City of Chattanooga, so proof and background will be presented in the following order:
2) Full Brief
On September 26, 2011, Little Chicago Watch filed an open records request to examine land appraisal documents for the Farmers Market property. The city open records office provided two land appraisals. One appraisal was commissioned by the City of Chattanooga and dated October 26, 2005 (Land Appraisal, Oct. 05). The second land appraisal was commissioned by William A. Thompson and property owners of record Richard D. Thompson and William R. Thompson, and dated January 25, 2006 (Land Appraisal, Jan. 06).
Little Chicago Watch wishes to strongly convey that the methodology and data presented in the referenced land appraisals is accepted as true and correct. Professionalism and candor is evident from the land appraisal reports that note lack of cooperation from the Thompson’s to direct and mandated inquiry, detailed assumptions, and suspected environmental liability (Land Appraisal, Oct. 05).
The City of Chattanooga contracted with a licensed land appraiser prior to purchase the Framer Market Property as required by Tennessee Code Annotated. Please examine item No. 18. The appraiser reported that the Thompson family refused to supply prior environmental studies. The appraiser writes in his report that he requested that the Thompson’s produce documents to protect the taxpayers, or the buyer on numerous occasions, and that the appraised or market value would be adjusted based upon additional information, if provided.
Excerpted City of Chattanooga Appraisal: Click on the Photo and Read No. 18
The land appraisal commissioned by the City dated October 25, 2005, lists assumptions (Land Appraisal, Oct 05). The land appraiser reports in assumption number 10 and that, “soil and structure engineering reports were not made available,” and “there will be full compliance with federal, state, and local environmental rules” as the basis for arriving at the estimated value of $750,000 (Land Appraisal, Oct. 2005).
The Thompson’s had prior studies that Richard Thompson commissioned, dated March 7, 2003. The Thompson soil study from 2003, clearly indicated, tested and identified soil contamination on the site. The appraiser for the City of Chattanooga taxpayers wrote in his October 25, 2005 report that the Thompson’s refused to produce these documents. They knew.
Excerpted Soil Study Commissioned by Richard Thompson 2003- Click on Photo
See Section 6.0 Environmental
After the City of Chattanooga purchased the Farmer’s Market property for $775,000 at full Market price from the Thompson family, pollution abatement and clean-up proceeded at the taxpayers expense. Then, EPA placed permanent and perpetual land use and development restrictions on the Farmer Market property, which prohibits ALL overnight occupation on the property, no day care use. Here is the environmental study with permanent restrictions, see Section 2.4 to limit long-term human exposure on the site. If EPA will say it is not true, so will Little Chicago Watch.
Excerpted Permanent Toxicity Land Use Restrictions: Click on Photo and Read Section 2.4
FACT: The Farmers Market property can never contain a Homeless Shelter. The City Council and Mayor are currently constructing Employee Health Centers and other City facilities to put something on the property, whether it is needed or not.
CONCLUSION APPRAISAL SECTION
Our City Council authorized Mayor Littlefield to negotiate a price with the Thompson Family by Adopted Resolution, and the Mayor authorized $25,000 more than the appraised value with no consideration to known site contamination that the licensed Appraiser requested and Thompson family refused to disclose or provide to the appraiser (not our words, see Appraiser’s Report).
Full Brief: TN Par Farm
Little Chicago Watch examined documents and records related to a land transaction between William Aubrey Thompson, his heirs, and the City of Chattanooga municipal government. The compilation of records spans both prior to, and after the transaction date of March 20, 2006.
The property is best described by Hamilton County Tax Map 145E, Group T, Parcel 002 (Tract A) and Tax Map 145E, Group U, Parcel 001 (Tract B) with a physical address of 702 East 11th Street located in the municipal jurisdiction of the City of Chattanooga Tennessee (Hamilton County Assessor of Property, Book 7889, Page 238), and is commonly referred to as the “Farmers Market Property.”
Community groups have raised questions regarding the “Farmers Market” land transaction. This document is intended to share and consolidate all known records, with recognition that this effort is a work in progress, and additional information may be required.
Findings contained in this document will be strictly limited to the MLA citations and the records catalog that is attached.
The collection of records was divided into three categories, 1) media, 2) public records, and 3) recorded legal documents. Interviews were not conducted. As previously listed, the documents collected were limited to the land transaction between William Aubrey Thompson, his heirs, and the City of Chattanooga. Omission of the environmental issues previously studied is not intended to diminish the importance of this public concern. The media collections have cross references to the land transaction, and the associated environmental site conditions. The scope of this report is solely to examine the land transaction.
The local media, Times Free Press Newspaper, and other news sources have cumulatively produced extensive information that is cataloged per article. It is the opinion of this researcher that the reporting is fragmented, rather than capturing all facts in one document. This document is an examination of the entire record of the land transaction, and presents new and unpublished legal documents.
Public records and legal documents were collected from the City of Chattanooga Government, Hamilton County Government, associated agencies, and online resources.
Examination of Records
The examination of records begins with a Times Free Press article published on February 9, 2008, titled, “Federal Witness Unveiled” (Gregory, Lanzeby, 2008). This article centers on Reverend Eugene Overstreet as a witness in the public corruption trial of former Sheriff Billy Long, and raises as a secondary issue Rev. Overstreet’s involvement in the Farmer Market property acquisition by the City of Chattanooga:
“According to the Chattanooga City Council minutes from February 6, 2007, Mr. Overstreet addressed the council and boasted that he walked the site of the proposed homeless complex on East 11th Street with Mayor Ron Littlefield before the mayor’s election along with the late William Aubrey Thompson, and was instrumental in the purchase of that property. (Mr. Overstreet) stated that the idea does not seem to please a lot of people with “funny badges” from Washington who have been tiptoeing around his funeral home, the minute’s state. “He reiterated that he is proud to be one of the progenitors of the Eleventh Street property purchase” (Gregory, Lanzeby 2008).
The City of Chattanooga Council meeting minutes of February 6, 2007, page 13 through 14, contain the following statement of Rev.Eugene Overstreet,
“He (Eugene Overstreet) stated he and “brother” Bill Thompson, who is in the Father’s house and our Mayor, before elected, walked through every building and every inch and he was glad he was instrumental in putting one hand on our Mayor’s shoulder and the other on Mr. Thompson’s to bring about an amalgamation of thought to create the property upon which this homeless property idea could be launched” (Chatt. Council Minutes, Feb. 6, 07).
William “Bill” A. Thompson is commonly known as a central figure in the Governor Ray Blanton, Tennessee parole for sale Federal public corruption sting, referred to as “TN Par.” Author Mark Grossman describes William A. Thompson as the creator of the concept of accepting bribes in exchange for parole, and the person that executed the plan to accept bribes for parole (Political Corruption in America, 2003). The United States Court of Appeals 685 F.ed 993, United States of America vs. William Aubrey Thompson cites that Mr. Thompson was indicted, convicted, and sentenced to Federal prison for racketeering and corrupt organization statues for conspiring to solicit and accept bribes for influencing the granting of pardons and paroles and delay or denial for extradition to person who had been convicted or charged. William A. Thompson’s role in the TN Par public corruption gained him national attention and is the subject of several books, and a film titled, “Marie” with Sissy Spacek. The facts surrounding Tennessee Parole for Sale (TN Par) is essential to understand that William A. Thompson was the creator of the concept of selling paroles and pardons, and executed the plan (United States Court of Appeals 685 Fed 993). William A. Thompson was also the owner of the Farmers Market property.
William A. Thompson purchased the Farmer Market Property on September 25, 2002 for a purchase price of $128,345 as recorded in the Hamilton County Register of Deeds Office (Ham. Co. Deed Book 6379, Page 0880). William A. Thompson failed to pay City of Chattanooga property taxes or stormwater fees, or Hamilton County property taxes for 3.3 consecutive years from September 25, 2002 to January 19, 2006 (Ham. County Chancery Court, Filings). On January 23, 2006, William A. Thompson filed a Quitclaim Deed conveying the property to his adult sons (Ham. Co. Deed Book 7818, Page 0257).
While conducting records search, Little Chicago Watch located lawsuits filed by the City of Chattanooga in the Hamilton County Chancery Court. The existence of the lawsuits has never been published by any local media source or the Times Free Press, and are significant with regard to the Farmers Market acquisition. As provided by the City of Chattanooga Charter, Article 2, titled, Delinquent Taxes, City Attorneys, Michael A. McMahan and Kenneth O. Fritz, filed annual lawsuit or complaints against William A. Thompson in the Chancery Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee for three consecutive years (Chatt. Charter, 2002).
Lawsuits Filed by City of Chattanooga in Chancery Court (Contained in Ref. Section)
2002 Delinquent Taxes-No. 11194 Part 1, City of Chattanooga vs. William A. Thompson Filed:
July 24, 2003
2003 Delinquent Taxes-No. 11197 Part 1, City of Chattanooga vs. William A. Thompson Filed:
July 13, 2004
2004 Delinquent Taxes-No. 11201, Part 1, City of Chattanooga vs. William A. Thompson Filed:
July 15, 2005
Each of the aforementioned lawsuits for delinquent taxes filed by the City Attorney, specifically states, “in the execution of the judgments and decrees, the Clerk and Master be required to sell the properties for cash, subject to the right of redemption and other obligation and debt” (Chancery Court Complaints, p. 3-4).
The Hamilton County Clerk and Master is authorized and obligated to place for sale properties deemed delinquent in tax payments after four years pursuant to Tennessee Code Annoated, and the City of Chattanooga is authorized by T.C.A. 67-5-2005 to bid on properties in back tax sales by the Clerk and Masters office. The municipal Charter, Article 2, Section 6.32, cites that the City of Chattanooga may purchase property at tax sales, and is authorized and empowered to bid at a back tax property sales in the amount of taxes, interest, penalties, and costs.
On January 23, 2006 William A. Thompson filed a Quitclaim Deed conveying ownership of the Farmers Market Property to his adult sons, Richard D. Thompson and William R. Thompson (Ham. Co. Deed Book 7818, Page 0257). The accumulated back taxes and fees from the three lawsuits filed by the City remained unpaid in the amount of approximately $180,000, and were not paid after the transfer of ownership from William A. Thompson to his adult sons, Richard D. Thompson and William R. Thompson.
On March 14, 2006, the City of Chattanooga Council voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor to negotiate and execute a contract to purchase certain property located on East 11th Street known as the “The Farmer Market Property” (Resolution No. 24705). For clarification, Resolution No. 24705 granted Mayor Ron Littlefield the authority to negotiate a price and sign a contract to purchase the Farmers Market property. The City Council minutes of March 14, 2006 do not reflect a disclosure to City Council that the property was in arrearages for 4 consecutive years of property taxes and stormwater fees at the time of passage of Resolution No. 24705, or that the City had filed lawsuits, and the property would meet the criteria to be sold for back taxes in late 2006, or in 7 months. Resolution 24705 was unlimited authority to execute a purchase agreement that did not require approval of the purchase price by City Council.
On March 30, 2006 or two weeks later, the city of Chattanooga under the authority delegated to the Mayor in Resolution No. 24705 purchased the property from the adult sons of William A. Thompson, Richard D. Thompson and William R. Thompson who acquired the property just 2 months prior through Quitclaim Deed on January 23, 2006 (Ham. Co. Deed Book 7818, Page 0257). The purchase price to the Thompson family from the City of Chattanooga was $775,000, or $646,655 more than Mr. William A. Thompson’s purchase price of $128,345, just 3.5 years prior on September 25, 2002 (Ham Co. Deed Book 7889, Book 0248).
The City of Chattanooga and Thompson family closing statement from the purchase lists accumulated back tax and stormwater fees to the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County were $199,860, or $71,515 greater than the original purchase price of $128,345 (Closing Statement, Mar. 06). Again, the City of Chattanooga was fully authorized by T.C.A. 67-5-2005 to bid on properties in back tax sales by the Clerk and Masters office. The municipal Charter, Article 2, Section 6.32, cites that the City of Chattanooga may purchase property at tax sales, and is authorized and empowered to bid at a back tax property sales in the amount of taxes, interest, penalties, and costs.
The Thompson family actually owed $71,515 more in unpaid taxes and stormwater fees that the original purchase price of $128,345 just 3 years prior. The net profit to the Thompson family was $646,655 for property that was within seven months of being sold in a mandated back tax property sale by the Hamilton County Clerk and Master (Ham. Co. Chancery Court Filings, 03-05).
Solely for the purpose of establishing prior relationships, the campaign financial disclosures for the 2005 and 2009 city of Chattanooga mayoral campaign were examined. On January 19, 2005, Scott Thompson, son of William A. Thompson, contributed $1,000 to the Littlefield for Mayor Campaign (Financial Disclosure, 2005). Again, on April 21, 2005, Scott Thompson, contributed another $1,000 to the Littlefield for Mayor Campaign (Financial Disclosure, 2005). On May 23, 2005, Richard D. Thompson, son of William A. Thompson contributed $1,000 to the Littlefield for Mayor Campaign (Financial Disclosure, 2005). Subsequent campaign contributions after the Farmer Market purchase, or for the reporting period of 2008-2009, list William A. Thompson family members and grandchildren contributing approximately $8,000 in $1,000 increments (Ham. Co. Election Com. Filings, 09).
Summary of Findings
On March 30, 2006, the Farmers Market property owned by the Thompson family was formally delinquent 4 full tax years, and in arrearages approximately $199,860. The records indicate the Farmer Market property was purchased months before the Hamilton County Clerk and Master was authorized to sell the property for back taxes and stormwater fees on the courthouse steps. Reverend Eugene Overstreet has publicly disclosed in a recorded City Council meeting that the land deal was developed prior to Mayor Ron Littlefield’s election. The City of Chattanooga could have bid on or purchased the Farmer Market Property from the Hamilton County Clerk and Masters back tax sale in the fall of 2006, or in seven more months. The City Council meeting minutes do not reflect that the Council was informed about the back tax arrearages, and the implication with regard to property acquisition.
Excerpted from Thompson Appraisal Page 5, dated January 25, 2006
Citations and Records Catalog
City of Chattanooga, Tennessee Government. Article 2 City Charter: Delinquent Taxes. August 22, 2002.
City of Chattanooga, Tennessee Government. City Council Minutes. March 14, 2006.
City of Chattanooga, Tennessee Government. City Council Minutes. Feb. 6, 2007.
City of Chattanooga, Tennessee Government. Resolution No. 24705. March 14, 2006.
Community Group. “The Ron Littlefield Memorial Dump: A Boon for Businessman, Loss of Taxpayers.” Chattaction.org/corruption. October 17, 2010.
Community Group. “Deed and Closing Documents: Farmers Market.” Chattaction.org/corruption. October 18, 2010.
Flessner, Dave and Sohn, Pam, “Chattanooga: Farmers Market Remains Homeless.” Times Free Press. August 11, 2008.
Gregory, Lauren and Lanzeby, Brian. “Federal Witness Unveiled.” Times Free Press. Feb. 9, 2008.
Griscom, Tom.””Land Buy Scrutiny Sensible.” Times Free Press. May 12, 2006.
Grossman, Mark, Political Corruption in America: an encyclopedia of scandals, power and greed. AB-CLIO Library of Congress, 2003.
Hamilton County Assessor of Property. Sale Transaction Dates: 702 E. 11th Street, 145E-T_002. March 30, 2006.
Hamilton County Clerk and Master. Chancery Court Back Tax Complaint No. 11194 City of Chattanooga vs. William A. Thompson. Filed July 24, 2003.
Hamilton County Clerk and Master. Chancery Court Back Tax Complaint No. 11196 Hamilton County vs. William A. Thompson. Filed Feb. 35, 2004.
Hamilton County Clerk and Master. Chancery Court Back Tax Complaint No. 11197 City of Chattanooga vs. William A. Thompson. Filed July 13, 2004.
Hamilton County Clerk and Master. Chancery Court Back Tax Complaint No. 11199 Hamilton County vs. William A. Thompson. Filed March 9, 2005.
Hamilton County Clerk and Master. Chancery Court Back Tax Complaint No. 11202 Hamilton County vs. William A. Thompson. Filed Feb. 20, 2006.
Hamilton County Clerk and Master. Chancery Court Back Tax Complaint No. 11201 City of Chattanooga vs. William A. Thompson. Filed July 15, 2005.
Hamilton County Election Commission,” Document: Ron Littlefield Campaign Disclosure: August 6, 2004 to February 19, 2005.” Elect.hamiltontn.gov.
Hamilton County Register of Deeds. Book 7889 Page 0238 Warranty Deed City of Chattanooga. March 30. 2006.
Hamilton County Register of Deeds. Book 7818 Page 0257 Quitclaim Deed of William A. Thompson. January 23, 2006.
Hamilton County Register of Deeds. Book 6379 Page 0880 Warranty Deed William A. Thompson. September 25, 2002.
Herrington, Angie, “Mayor Use State of City Address to Update Council on Homeless Campus.” Times Free Press. April 25, 2006.
Herrington, Angie, “New City Campus for the Homeless to Include Day Shelter, Thrift Stores.” Times Free Press. April 11, 2006.
Staff Reporter. “City Proposed Buying Farmers Market.” Times Free Press. March 13, 2006.
Tennessee Code Annotated. Section 67-5-2002: Delinquent Municipal Real Property taxes. Tennessee.gov. October 15, 2010.
United States of America Court of Appeals-6th Circuit. 685 F.2d 993-US vs. William A. Thompson. Aug. 4, 1982.
Wilson, John. “Levi, Crime Figure, Wanted Bill on Controlling County’s Money.” Chattanoogan.com. October 30, 2006.
Wilson, John. “Henry says Former Trustee Finance Officer, Not A Disgruntled Employee.” Chattanoogan.com. October 31, 2006.
Wilson, John. “Littlefield Get $184,943 To Lead Mayoral Candidates.” Chattanoogan.com. Feb. 24, 2009.
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