September 13, 2013 3:14 pm ET
Formal Justice Department Investigation Requested
Source: Fort Howard Scandal Widens
(Second in a series)
First, to stem the tide of backlash that the headline is sure to cause, I want to provide a definition of the word scandal, since I know that it is a harsh term. According to good ol’ Mr. Webster, a scandal is “an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.”
I think that, based on the above definition, my use of the term scandal is justified. But let me explain a little further.
The last part of the definition talks about public outrage. When it comes to the public, I think that there is plenty of outrage regarding what is happening at the old Fort Howard veteran’s hospital. The surrounding North Point Peninsula community has a population of about 10,000, and a good majority of them have issued a battle cry: Save Fort Howard. That is why nearly 7,000 names have appeared on a petition circulated to oppose the planned Fort Howard LLC development.
The public outcry also is apparent through the numerous websites, signs, and grassroots campaigns aimed at stopping the planned retirement community and keeping Fort Howard for veterans only. One such site is on Facebook, and the Patch featured a post on saving the property for our vets.
Now, let’s focus on the rest of the definition. In order to understand the “moral/legal” component, we have to go back to the beginning—the only community meeting (that I know of) about the development.
The situation began to unfold when my former blog editor, Ron Cassie, and I went to a community meeting. Ron noted the following about the meeting: “Developers Tim Munshell and Carl Williams, and Dusky Holman, a real estate attorney for the project from the firm Smith, Gildea & Schmidt, laid out the plans at a town hall meeting earlier this month at Edgemere Elementary School.”
It is important to read Ron’s article to see exactly what was promised by the developers, as well as what was actually delivered. However, in the interest of time, I will summarize what happened at the meeting … and the events that followed.
One well-informed member of the audience spoke up at the meeting, telling the developers and their attorney that a county traffic engineer had advised him that the traffic on North Point Road was almost at capacity. This person simply wanted to know how the developers would address that issue. Their response (according to my notes) was that their own engineers were working on the traffic concerns, as well as potential impact to infrastructure (water, electricity, environmental, etc.), in order to determine just how to address and resolve these critical issues.
However, and this is the kicker, the developers and their attorney—Dusky Holman from you know who—stated that they would complete a study and get back to the community in 30 days.
Folks, that was in June 2011. It’s a good thing that the people in the community aren’t holding our collective breath, because that 30 days has come and gone many, many times since. We did not hear back from the law office of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt. (And you can’t say that Mr. Schmidt isn’t around to address the topic—he is our school board president, after all, so he’s in the vicinity.) We also have heard nothing from the developers. So, after more than 750 days, the community remains in the dark.
It wasn’t long after the meeting that the developer’s website was taken down. Oddly enough, the developer’s phone number was disconnected. I attempted to contact the law firm with some questions, but I have yet to receive a response.
Is the “scandal” term making more sense now?
As you may recall, I interviewed Mr. Ed Bradley from the Veterans Administration (VA) in Washington. It wasn’t the best interview—his most common answer was, “I can’t comment on that”—but he did reveal a very profound and interesting fact. Mr. Bradley said if a lease is terminated (like the one from the prior developer, Federal Development LLC), the new developer must start the process from the beginning. That means that the new developer must provide all new studies, criteria, and plans in order to meet the strict guidelines set by the VA. There are 23 agencies involved in the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) alone, so you can just imagine the cost to the developers in meeting those requirements.
Remember the meeting between the local union, Councilman Oleszewski, Sr., and Tim Munshell where the developers attempted to borrow $10 million but were denied? Also, do you remember the extension that was granted to the developers by the VA? (They missed that one as well.)
To me, the most perplexing and disturbing issue about this whole scandal revolves around documentation. I have a number of VA documents posted on my website. (To read them, just click on the links and open the files with the Adobe reader or another PDF reader application.) However, if you try to find those VA documents elsewhere on the Web, you’ll find nothing. It appears that they have all been taken down by the VA.
One has to ask, why in the Sam Hill would they do such a thing?
The fact is, folks, you can’t find any official documentation about Fort Howard on the Web, or even on the side of a milk carton. Everything just seemed to vanish, and I really want to know why.
I am going to attempt to get some answers from Mr. Bradley in Washington, but I have a feeling that I will get more “I can’t comment on that” statements sent my way like last time. That is not going to deter me, though. There are some tough questions that need to be answered. I tried getting some information from the local VA, but they just referred me back to Mr. Bradley—even though the local VA issued the press release announcing the signing of the lease.
I suppose the locals at the VA couldn’t figure out this quagmire, either.
Stay tuned, there is plenty more to come in this saga.