Details on the governor's land deal with Jerry Dodge - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Details on the governor's land deal with Jerry Dodge

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Jerry Dodge Jerry Dodge
Gov. Peter Shumlin Gov. Peter Shumlin
EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. -

"It's my homestead. You know I planned on dying here," Jerry Dodge told WCAX News in May.

Dodge was trying to avoid a tax sale and had sold his home and 16 acres to Gov. Peter Shumlin for $58,000, well below the assessed value. Dodge was weeks away from eviction.

Reporter Jennifer Reading/May 23: How do you think you are going to feel come July 15?

Jerry Dodge/May 23: Real bad. Like I disappointed Mom and Dad.

Dodge's kids were outraged when they learned of the sale, arguing their dad was not mentally capable of negotiating without a lawyer.

Shumlin initially defended the deal as fair, but amid mounting public scrutiny the governor agreed to renegotiate with Dodge. Dodge's lawyer, Brady Toensing, confirmed a new agreement Thursday, allowing Dodge to buy back the property.

"An agreement has been reached in principal and the details of the agreement will be worked out over the next few weeks, but basically it's a clerical task," Toensing said.

The governor estimates he paid Dodge about $30,000 so far for the East Montpelier property. Under the new deal, Dodge can keep his home and repay the $30,000 over five years.

"That's a great outcome for him. That's a great outcome for me. So, I'm thrilled that it's worked out the way that it has," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Shumlin's lawyer says a mortgage will be set up for Dodge. He'll be required to make an interest-only payment once a year for the first four years, followed by an interest and principal payment on the fifth year.

"So, the good news is it's not a huge amount of money and we're still working out the details, but we're going to make it very possible for him to make those payments," Shumlin said.

Political analyst Eric Davis says striking a deal was a smart move for Vermont's leader.

"The last thing the governor needed is this issue hanging on for several more months and periodically resurfacing in terms of media coverage and distracting him from the agenda he wants to pursue for the rest of this term as governor," Davis said.

But Davis does not think the sour land deal will resonate with voters a year from now.

"He hasn't built up a great reservoir of personal enthusiasm that a lot of other candidates in Vermont have," Davis said. "And it's going to take a while for Shumlin to build up that sort of personal appeal and this story makes it a bit more difficult. But I don't see it as damaging in any way in terms of harming his re-election prospects."

The governor says the real estate ordeal has taught him Vermonters hold him to a higher standard.

"I recognize that as governor, I'm governor every single day. That's the lesson for me," Shumlin said. "And obviously I regret getting involved in what was a very difficult situation because of the fact that I'm always governor and I am held to a different standard than average citizens."

Dodge's lawyer asked him not to do any on-camera interviews with the media Thursday. But Wednesday night Dodge called it a good deal and said keeping his land is all he was after.

Dodge does not earn a lot of money. And the governor's lawyer says the goal is to work out a payment plan that Dodge can meet. In the end, however, it is a mortgage and if Dodge doesn't pay, the governor will have a foreclosure option. Once the home is in Dodge's name he will be eligible to lower his property tax payments. He was paying about $4,500, but using income sensitivity he should have owed one-tenth of that-- about $460. Dodge says had he known about that option he would not have gotten behind on his taxes in the first place, which is what led to the sale.

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