Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Loan Letter an Issue; Notice to State of Loan to New Employer Given before Commission Approval

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Camden Loan Letter an Issue; Notice to State of Loan to New Employer Given before Commission Approval

Article excerpt

Byline: Gordon Jackson, The Times-Union

WOODBINE -- The chairman of the Camden County Commission has told state officials the county will lend $564,000 to the soon-to-be largest private employer in the county for renovations to a vacant building that will be the company's new St. Marys office.

The interest-free loan from the county will help St. Louis-based Express Scripts qualify for a $994,000 grant from the OneGeorgia Authority to help pay for renovations to its new office in St. Marys that will create 650 new jobs.

In a letter to Nancy Cobb, executive director of OneGeorgia Authority, commission Chairman David Rainer said the county has "made available and reserved $564,000 to be loaned to the Camden County Joint Development Authority in support of Express Scripts, Inc."

Commissioner Sandy Feller says there's a problem with Rainer's letter, however. The loan has never been discussed in a public meeting or private session, Feller said. And Rainer does not have the authority to make a decision for a loan without a vote by the county commission, he said.

"This is totally illegal," Feller said. "That letter is a lie. He has perjured himself."

Russ Willard, a spokesman with the Georgia Attorney General's Office, said there are state laws prohibiting elected officials from providing false information on grant requests, but he wasn't aware of Rainer's letter and therefore could not comment.

Rainer, however, said he hasn't broken any laws. The letter was written on the assumption commissioners will approve the loan at the July 13 commission meeting, he said. The letter was sent last week to meet a July 1 application deadline for the grant, he said.

"If the county does not approve the loan, then it aborts the application altogether," Rainer said. "If the county says no, it wipes out the request. This is not an unusual thing."

Rainer said he never contacted other commissioners because he assumed Bob Noble, executive director of the Camden County Joint Development Authority, had told other commissioners about the letter.

"I don't disagree with him [Feller] on the standpoint that he should have been appraised," Rainer said. …

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