New developments in a WCAX News investigation into a land deal between Gov. Peter Shumlin and an East Montpelier man. Jeremy Dodge's kids say the governor took advantage of their dad and they now plan to fight the governor for the property.
Dodge's daughter says she's devastated by the deal. She claims she and her siblings did not even know the details until our investigation. They say their father's mental health has been declining for at least a decade and he was not fit to make this kind of decision on his own. The family now plans to challenge the legality of the sale.
"We could have saved this place," Rochelle Dodge said.
Rochelle Dodge is furious with Governor Peter Shumlin over a land deal he negotiated with her father. The two men are neighbors.
"I want to just go up to him and just be like how dare? How dare you do this to my family?" Rochelle said.
Last November, Shumlin closed on a 16-acre property in East Montpelier. It belonged to Jeremy Dodge, a man $18,000 behind on his taxes and facing the town's order to auction the property at a tax sale.
"I'm a slow learner to start with. I have a hard time comprehending a lot of things," Jeremy Dodge said.
Dodge and Shumlin met one-one-one at least 15 times. The governor scrawled the terms of his offer on a folder.
We asked a group of Central Vermont real estate agents to estimate fair market value for the land. They gave us a list of recent sales in East Montpelier showing several 3-acre parcels going for $40,000-$55,000. A 10-acre plot went for $60,000. And the priciest parcel we found of less than 20 acres was a 6-acre plot for $115,000. None of these tracts of land had a house.
The governor negotiated a deal to buy Dodge's house and 16 acres for $58,000. Shumlin had a lawyer acting on his behalf. Dodge could not afford one. So the governor suggested Dodge use his.
Rochelle believes her dad was not mentally capable of brokering a deal or understanding its terms. She does not even think he should even be living on his own.
"I talked to my dad this morning and I said dad, we need to get you some help. You are going to be in an assisted living home. Washington County Mental Health will help you," she said.
Rochelle said her father hid the extent of his debt from his loved ones and was living in extremely poor conditions without power or running water. Probate records show Dodge has never been assigned a court appointed guardian, nor has he ever undergone a mental health evaluation. His daughter is working to change that and is now looking for a lawyer in hopes the sale to the governor can be voided.
"There's something going on and I'm going to get to the bottom of it," she said. "And I will get this land in the Dodge name. I will try my hardest."
Governor Shumlin continues to decline our requests for an on-camera interview. Instead, he has released another statement in response the media coverage of the land deal:
"As I have said, I was saddened and disappointed that Jerry Dodge now regrets our agreement. I see and talk with Jerry frequently, and yet first heard about this from the press. When Jerry asked for my help to avoid the tax sale, I agreed, and I want to see this through to a good resolution. If that means Jerry stays in the house beyond July 15, that's fine with me."
Late Thursday afternoon, the governor emailed a third statement saying, "The Dodge family has not reached out to me. It appears they have only talked to the press."
Dodge says he has not heard from the governor, and as far as he knows, he must still be out by July 15. The family tells me this is new territory for them and they are still working to understand their options. Their main concern is where Jeremy Dodge will go when he does have to move out. Dodge is on parole. They fear if he cannot find housing approved by Corrections he will go back to jail, where they say he will not get the mental health help he needs.
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