Sunday, November 22, 2015
Grand Jurors to Hear Details of Land Transactions
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A Greene County resident is set to appear tomorrow before members of a county grand jury to give testimony about three land transactions involving a local official and US Nitrogen.
Donahue Bible, a longtime opponent of the US Nitrogen project, made a personal plea to the grand jury foreman Ron Metcalfe for the opportunity to present details of the three transactions all involving US Nitrogen and J.W. Douthat.
He made the plea under a rarely used provision of state law under which private citizens can personally bring information to the panel.
Metcalfe agreed and the Monday date for an appearance was set.
Bible made the personal appeal after District Attorney Dan Armstrong told Bible and his attorney that he did not believe the transactions involved any criminal conduct.
Bible will meet with Metcalfe and two other grand jurors. They will then bring the matter to the full grand jury which will then determine whether to initiate a formal investigation or drop the matter.
Both US Nitrogen and Douthat have denied any wrongdoing.
The first transaction, a land option agreement, was signed on Sept. 13, 2013, while Douthat was a member of the Old Knox Utility District and the Industrial Development Board of Greeneville and Greene County. Both boards have played major roles in the US Nitrogen project.
Douthat abstained from an earlier vote on the project, but then did vote as an IDB board member at a July 18, 2014 IDB meeting on a motion to resubmit for state approval a 12 mile double barrelled pipeline to be located along the rights of way of two state highways.
The motion was approved and the state, in an apparent reversal, also endorsed the pipeline plan.
With the pipeline to the Nolichucky River, US Nitrogen was able to avoid purchasing millions of gallons a month from the utility district. Douthat eventually resigned from the utility district board.
Though the company says the option agreement was never exercised, Douthat's company did later sell two parcels to US Nitrogen.
A 13.67 acre property was sold to US Nitrogen for $148,740 on Oct. 9 of last year. Douthat Properties, LLC sold a second larger tract to US Nitrogen for $851,251.38 on Oct. 24.
US Nitrogen subsequently sold that second parcel for $550,000, a nearly $300,000 or 35 percent loss.