Closed door manipulations betray the public trust

Once again, our Governor and his staff have decided to conduct business involving Delaware taxpayers’ money behind closed doors. This all too common practice should and must be challenged and stopped. This particular secret land deal is being consummated without any consultation with the entire General Assembly and instead is being slipped into the Bond Bill, which is voted on in the waning hours of the session at the end of June.

Further compounding the lack of transparency is a significant perception of favoritism. The prospective purchaser of the property is Corporation Service Co., a powerful special interest player described by the News Journal as one of “the state’s most politically influential registered agent company, that for more than a century has helped cement Delaware’s status as a world ‘corporate capital’ by providing businesses with legal, financial and other services.” The public should be aware that CSC acts as a registered agent of record for many LLC license applicants. Many of Delaware’s LLC licensed businesses have been in the news and identified as shell companies that have laundered money, helped fund certain questionable real estate investments (such as Manafort’s Ukrainian connection), engaged in suspected human trafficking (Backpage), and have contributed to a fraudulent abuse of the public trust and shareholders.

In addition, the News Journal’s recent article has exposed the fact that “the proposal in the Bond Bill is worded to allow Delaware officials to bypass its ordinary process for selling state property. State law requires that a commission check that no other government department needs the property before declaring it surplus, and then determine the best way to sell or transfer it to ensure it’s used for ‘a public purpose.’ The Governor’s proposal instead directs DelDOT to sell the lot to the ‘current lessee.’ CSC signed a lease for the lot in December, contingent on its purchase of the office building.”

OMB spokesman Bert Scoglietti’s claim that this practice is “not uncommon” belies the reality that most state property transfers approved in recent Bond Bills have been to another government agency or a non-profit organization.

It seems obvious that this proposal to transfer ownership of a taxpayer-owned property without submitting details to all members of the General Assembly and bypass the ordinary process for selling state property is an attempt to avoid transparent and good government.

As one of 62 elected members of the General Assembly, if these types of special interest deals with private corporations are not conducted in the full view of the public and the public’s elected representatives, then we will never have the public’s trust nor should we. This blatant attempt to place an important public interest proposal in the Bond Bill, a piece of legislation that is voted on at the very end of the legislative session, is not normal nor justified.

I am urging the Bond Committee to request a full review of this proposal and that all legislators be engaged and informed of its nuances.

John Kowalko
State Representative
25th District

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