Late last week, the Virginia Pilot ran a story stating that Republican Party of Virginia Exec. Dir. Shaun Kenney was under investigation with regard to property that he purchased last year and whether he used his position while on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors to enhance the value of that property. Based upon the facts that I have been able to discern here, both time and geography appear to vindicate Shaun’s side of the story.
First of all, let’s get this part out of the way. Anyone can ask for a state investigation of an elected official, whether it’s a state senator or a supervisor. The state police are duty bound to look into the nature of the allegations and offer whether or not there is merit to the accusation or not. Right now, state investigators are said to be wrapping up their investigation of Kenney and the accusations that he bought property in the Town of Columbia in order to sell it back to the James River Water Authority (JRWA) for an amount of $1.25 million so that it could build a pumping station or the alternate accusation that he bought the land in order to benefit from a revitalization grant.
With regard to geography, the Town of Columbia is one-mile away from the proposed pipeline route and none of the town lots are next to a water source. The JRWA can only serve Fluvanna and Louisa customers, which is why Columbia already has its own water treatment facility. (The black marks on the map below are Shaun’s property in Columbia. The proposed pipeline, as previously indicated, is a mile west and would not serve the town.)
This is pretty clear-cut to me that Kenney’s property is not of interest to the JRWA. Furthermore, all of the information with regard to the JRWA proposal is public, so even if Kenney’s property would have been of interest to them, he would not have been utilizing inside information unavailable to the general public in order to make a profit (unlike how Virginia’s senior senator Mark Warner made his millions upon departing his staff job on Capitol Hill.)
The alternative allegation that Shaun purchased the property in order to benefit from a revitalization grant falls due to timing. The county’s application for a grant to restore the main street in Columbia was declined by the state in the summer of 2013. The major property owner along the main street in Columbia then began selling all of his properties at which time Kenney bought four buildings and six lots for the assessed price of the properties. So Kenney bought the property AFTER the grant was denied.
Even if the county reapplies for the grant in the future (and Kenney is no longer serving on the county board, so that issue is off the table), it was public knowledge at the time these lots were being sold that a grant had been applied for and anyone could have purchased them if they wanted to speculate that a grant might yet be approved one day. Plus Kenney bought the property for their assessed value, so it isn’t as if he received a sweetheart deal on the land like the Clintons did with Whitewater.
So, with both geography and time on Kenney’s side who filed the complaint against him and why?
In March, when Shaun was interviewing for Executive Director of RPV, State Senator Tom Garrett made statements insisting that Shaun not be hired. Garrett not only referenced his involvement in helping a Fluvanna citizen file the request for a state investigation of Kenney, but stated specifically that Shaun was only taking the position as executive director so that Kenney could primary Garrett for state senate in 2015 (something that I have been assured Kenney is not looking to do, but Garrett’s actions sure are a great way to get someone to change their mind.) It makes you wonder if Garrett has been pushing this story with the media (and this blog comment mentioning Garrett is particularly interesting since it almost appears like a pre-emptive defense.)