ATLANTA — Gov.-elect Nathan Deal has named a political supporter to oversee many of his assets while he’s in office and has restructured more than $1 million in personal debt remaining from a failed family business venture.
The Republican’s lawyer, Randy Evans, said Deal has set up a blind trust for his holdings, following through on a campaign pledge. But he isn’t putting everything in it.
Deal will maintain control over his Gainesville home and Habersham County land that housed his daughter and son-in-law’s sporting goods store. Both properties are up for sale to help pay off some $1.35 million in debt he incurred from backing the failed North Georgia business, Wilder Outdoors.
Jimmy Allen, a Tifton-based accountant and Deal political supporter, will serve as trustee of the governor’s assets and act as his surrogate on business matters. Deal is transferring his share of Gainesville Salvage Disposal into the trust as well as his holding in several limited liability companies, Evans said.
Allen contributed $5,600 to Deal’s gubernatorial bid and his wife gave $3,600.
One watchdog group said the arrangement raises concerns.
“It would have been better to find someone neutral, rather than a supporter to appear beyond reproach,” William Perry, the new executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said.
Perry also said that the land sales could be a distraction for Deal as he leads the state. And by keeping the properties out of the trust, he opens himself up to allegations of political favoritism when the sales go through.
But Washington D.C.-based attorney Brett Kappel, who has handled blind trusts for members of Congress, said the arrangements seemed typical.
“It’s not unusual to pick someone you know — a supporter— as the trustee,” Kappel said. “Could it raise eyebrows with the public? Sure. But it’s not unusual.”