Friday, September 14, 2012

Habitat official challenges Fitzgerald's claim

If Keith Fitzgerald wants to make a campaign issue over Cortez Landings in his race against Republican congressman Vern Buchanan, he won't do it with the help of Jim Frame and Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.

The Democratic challenger was quoted in Thursday's Bradenton Herald accusing his opponent of "'misleading' Habitat for Humanity in a questionable real estate deal."

Fitzgerald was referring to the East Bradenton property Habitat bought for $1.4 million in 2009 from Ed Buchanan, the Sarasota lawmaker's brother, and Cortez Landings LLC, among whose owners is Sandra Buchanan, the congressman's wife.

In 2010, Vern Buchanan used the Habitat mortgage as collateral for a $3.875 Bank of America loan.

Frame, president of Habitat's board of directors, has no problem with Buchanan's business decision concerning the mortgage and, furthermore, said Fitzgerald's claim the nonprofit was "misled" in its initial purchase is false.

"On the matter of our purchase of Cortez Landings ... from Cortez Landings LLC, I would say to any reporter that on behalf of the board of directors of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity that we do not believe we were misled by anyone in purchasing the aforementioned property," he said.

Though the appraised value of the property is now a third of what it was three years ago, Habitat is content with the still-undeveloped land on which it hopes to build homes for the poor.

"The use we intended it for is as good today as it was four years ago," Frame said.

The conressman's campaign manager said his opponent's statement is a blatant distortion.

"Fitzgerald should be ashamed of himself for dragging Habitat through the mud in a sleazy and now proven to be dishonest attempt to smear Vern," Sally Tibbetts said.

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