Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer publicly stated Tuesday that The Missourian and a county resident benefited from the sale of a controversial piece of county property.
Griesheimer said the newspaper made money off the property sale and that a Krakow man was able to knock his ex-brother-in-law out of the bidding process.
“Quite frankly, you’ve got the Washington Missourian, they won,” Griesheimer said. “They got $600 more than they did before in advertising.”
He was referring to the $618 in legal advertising that the county bought to publicly seek bids for the land in Whispering Valley south of New Haven.
State law does not say the commissioners were required to publicly advertise the property, according to County Counselor Mark Vincent. In fact, Vincent said there is no procedure set forth in state law that says how the county must go about selling property. The county commissioners have the authority to decide how land can be sold, Vincent added.
The commissioners agreed to advertise the property after county resident Dean Riegel complained that the original land deal was handled in an unethical manner.
The county prepared a lengthy public notice and paid to have it run three times in the newspaper.
The property in question became controversial after Riegel said the original land deal was handled “under the table” and through a “buddy system.”
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In the end, everyone ended up being a winner in the final land sale, Griesheimer said.
“First of all you’ve got Mr. Riegel, who originally came forward and complained — he’s a winner in the fact that he was able to knock out his ex-brother-in-law from bidding,” Griesheimer said.
Reached for comment by The Missourian, Riegel said he does not feel as though he knocked his ex-brother-in-law, Chris Boone, out of the bidding process. Everyone had the right to bid, Riegel said.
As for Griesheimer bringing his name up in the middle of a public meeting, Riegel said, “He can bring my name up in public anytime he wants.”
Riegel said he is pleased that the county ultimately handled the land deal in a moral way.
The fact that Riegel complained about the land sale and then did not even bid on it showed that he had ulterior motives of getting back at his ex-brother-in-law, Griesheimer has claimed.
Riegel has said that his reason for raising an issue about the property had nothing to do with his ex-brother-in-law. He said he was just upset about the way it was handled.
Griesheimer said the county commissioners have been called unethical over how the land deal was handled, but no one held Riegel’s “feet to the fire” when he did not place a bid.
The county commission voted 3-0 to sell the lot for $10 to Ron Keeven, who was the highest bidder.
It was inappropriate for Griesheimer to make the comments about Riegel during a public meeting, Keeven said.
“It’s unprofessional,” Keeven said. “It’s not the way it should be handled.”
Taxpayers ‘Truly Won’
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker said he was grateful that the county commission could sell the property the right way, adding that the taxpayers “truly won” in the deal.
The Whispering Valley subdivision is also a winner because the property will now be cleaned up, Griesheimer said.
Originally, the county commission voted to sell the land to Boone for $1. After that, Riegel complained that others were not given the chance to bid.
However, county officials said the land was offered three times in a public tax sale with no bids received.
But when the lot was offered in the tax sales, it was more expensive than $1 because the back taxes had to be covered.
The county commissioners originally voted to sell the land for $1 to Boone to get the property back on the tax rolls so it would no longer be a county liability.
Even though he did not end up getting the land, Boone is still a winner in the final deal, Griesheimer said. That’s because there are still other properties in Whispering Valley that he can acquire, Griesheimer noted.
A condition to the sale was that an old house at the site be torn down. Selling the land for $1 with the condition the house be torn down saved taxpayer money since public funds would not have to be used to demolish the house, officials have said. Griesheimer noted that the county would have had to pay union labor rates to have the house demolished.
As the winning bidder, Keeven must have the house torn down.
The Missourian was not critical of the manner in which the property was sold to Boone and never advocated the publishing of a lengthy public notice.