Land sale puts Syracuse official under investigation

May 6 2011 - 9:38pm

SYRACUSE -- The Davis County Attorney's office is reviewing a claim that Syracuse City Councilman Matt Kimmel profited from a property transaction in which he received inside information while representing the city on the North Davis Sewer District Board.

Kimmel said, based on the latest information he has received, the property transaction the county attorney's office is studying has not yet closed and he will not be accepting the finder's fee he was anticipating, if it violates any criminal or ethical statute.

"Ethically or legally, I want to walk the line. I can understand how that would look bad to anybody," said Kimmel. He was surprised to find the land transaction, in which he recused himself from voting based on the possibility of receiving a finder's fee, had made its way to the county attorney's office.

"If a (district) board member is that disgruntled to take it this far, it isn't worth a penny," Kimmel said.

Kimmel introduced a real estate agent to a district official to represent the district in purchasing land for a buffer zone between the sewer treatment plant in Syracuse and surrounding residents, officials said.

Purchase price of the land was $730,000, creating a commission for the agent of more than $21,000, North Davis Sewer District Chairman Ivan Anderson said.

The sewer district legal counsel, Felshaw King, confirmed Friday he asked County Attorney Troy Rawlings to investigate a land sale incident involving Kimmel, the district, and a real estate agent.

King said the request was made to Rawlings on behalf of district board members, who wanted to get "a fresh set of eyes" on the details involved with the transaction.

"I want to emphasize at this point that Kimmel has committed no crime, nor has he done anything wrong," King said. "There are a number of state statutes that may be applicable."

King said it may not be considered a violation of the law, but instead inappropriate under district rules.

Rawlings confirmed his office has been contacted about the matter and has been told they "will be receiving additional information."

Rawlings declined any further comment.

Syracuse Mayor Jamie Nagle said she is aware of the concerns surrounding the allegations involving Kimmel, and will take the issue to the Syracuse City Council if necessary, but declined further comment.

Kimmel, who has served on the board for about a year, said he was unaware of the investigation until contacted Friday by the Standard-Examiner.

Kimmel, with a background in commercial real estate, said he offered his expertise for the sale of the land and referred a real estate agent to the sewer district.

The agent worked with the district and King on the asking price, Kimmel said, and he stayed completely out of the deal. Because the real estate agent was going to be paying Kimmel a business referral fee, he said, he recused himself from the board vote.

The property purchase was voted on by the board at its April 21 public meeting.

At the time of the vote, a board member took exception to Kimmel receiving a finder's fee on the deal and expressed publicly that he wished that conflict had been disclosed earlier in the transaction process, which took place over several months, Kimmel said.

"I would have disclosed (that) earlier had I known the land sale was going further," Kimmel said.

If it violates a legal or ethical law, he said, he will decline any fee.

"We never agreed to a dollar amount," he said.

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