"We want to save the land and keep it in the Dodge name rather than just giving up on it," said Rochelle Dodge.
On Tuesday keeping 305 Foster Road in the Dodge name seemed like a longshot. "It's been overwhelming," said Jerry Dodge, who along with his daughter, has been scrambling to find an affordable lawyer to take his case -- while Governor Peter Shumlin hired former attorney general Jerry Diamond to work for him.
"I haven't seen anything unethical or illegal in the transaction. Somebody on one side has had sellers remorse," Diamond said Wednesday.
Jerry Dodge sees it differently. He claims he didn't understand his options and now regrets selling his homestead to his neighbor, the governor, for a quarter of its assessed value. Shumlin bought Dodge's East Montpelier home and 16 acre property for $58,000, days before it was slated for a tax sale. Dodge did not have a lawyer for these negotiations.
The governor and his new attorney say they never doubted Dodge's competency. "This is someone who understands, who is intelligent -- that just because he did not graduate from high school you don't write him off and say that he doesn't understand transactions," Diamond said.
But the land deal opened the governor up to a firestorm of public scrutiny. Some claimed the millionaire took advantage of the ex-con. And after days of defending the deal, Shumlin agreed to renegotiate. "The governor made a commitment he was going to do whatever needed to be done to make it right," Diamond said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Diamond said the governor is ready to make peace with Dodge and his family. "We really want to convey to the Dodge family that the governor is really concerned about making them happy and we've seen from their comments that they want their property back," he said.
Diamond said the governor is offering to return the East Montpelier deed to his neighbor if Dodge reimburses Shumlin for his investment -- including all home repairs, back taxes and the delinquent child support the governor paid in Dodge's name.
Reporter Jennifer Reading: "What would the Dodge family be required to pay back?
Jerry Diamond: I don't have the exact figure yet, but it's substantially less the actual $58,000.
Diamond says he got clearance from the governor to make the offer public. He has already reached out to Dodge about a settlement. "We're hoping that they'll listen to this and know that we're serious about it and to give us a call," he said.
Rochelle Dodge says she and her father are excited about the offer and they plan to accept. The Dodge family says they plan to meet with the governor and his lawyer to work out the details, but were told they'd have at least a year to repay the debt.
Rochelle Dodge says she plans to call the real estate attorneys Vermont Legal Aid suggested, but as of right now the family has not hired an attorney. Diamond stressed that he is strongly recommending that family retain legal counsel to help them navigate the settlement process.