Enough.

Yesterday, the editor of The Town Talk, a Gannett corporate transplant named Paul Carty, wrote a scathing editorial criticizing the integrity of the people who won the City’s Downtown Hotels Initiative proposal and asking the City to put the entire project on hold.

Here’s what everyone who cares about Alexandria needs to know: Paul Carty is wrong, and he is being reckless. I do not write those words without understanding their import. He writes as the voice of the entire community newspaper, but he is absent from our community, unwilling to even do the most basic task of a newspaperman: picking up the phone and verifying your facts.

This afternoon, I was copied into an e-mail from Jim Howard of Dudley Ventures Development. Mr. Howard was the principal target of Carty’s editorial. Quoting from Carty’s editorial:

In addition, the head of the Arizona equity firm picked by the city to find investors in tax-advantaged transactions was managing director of a similar firm in Virginia whose chief operating officer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Michael D. Parker, then COO of TransCapital Corp. of Reston, Va., conspired with an attorney working for TransCapital and an accountant with KPMG LLC to defraud the Internal Revenue Service of tens of millions of dollars from 1998 through 2006.

Together, they orchestrated $240 million in bogus tax deductions.

….

James D. Howard Jr., head of Dudley Ventures, the equity firm picked by the city to help finance its hotel project, was TransCapital’s managing director.

Howard and Joseph F. Campagna, chairman of TransCapital, share multiple business relationships, including TransCapital Solutions LLC and gaming companies CDST-Gaming I and II.

Sounds like terrible stuff, right?

With permission from Mr. Howard, here, in full, is the response that he provided to The Town Talk. One can only hope they have the integrity to print it unedited and to then issue a full retraction and apology (One can also hope that Bob Madison of KSYL radio will read, on air, Mr. Howard’s response with the same vigor with which he regurgitated Carty’s editorial):

Without as much as a call to me, the Town Talk engaged in a vicious attack on Dudley Ventures and more importantly my business reputation this weekend.

It is totally lacking in justification and unwarranted. I would like to set the record straight.

With the common courtesy of a call (and a careful review of the business records), the following facts could have been obtained:

TransCapital Corporation is a Delaware corporation qualified to do business in Virginia. I have not had in the past nor currently have an affiliation of any sort with this Company. In addition, I have not done business with Mr. Parker nor did I have any involvement in the activities resulting in his problems with the Internal Revenue Service. I learned of Mr. Parker’s problems by reading the press release at the same time as the general public.  A review of the records of TransCapital Corporation both in Delaware and Virginia do not show me listed anywhere because I have had no involvement with this entity.

I have, on the other hand, been the Managing Director of TransCapital Soutions, LLC.  My partner in this entity is Joe Campagna.

It is not uncommon in the business world for different partnerships, with different partners, to engage in totally different activities. Other than the name “TransCapital” and Joe Campagna being involved in TransCapital Solutions, there is no link whatsoever with TransCapital Corporation. They are separate legal entities.  We manage all of the activities of TransCapital Solutions in Arizona and Joe Campagna is of retirement age and passive in this entity.

Joe Campagna, by the way, was not the target of the IRS activities with Mr. Parker.

More importantly from my standpoint, TransCapital Solutions has been involved in a substantial number of Congressionally sanctioned tax credit programs. TransCapital Solutions nor Dudley Ventures have ever had any issue with the IRS. We have been a leader in this field, without incident.

TransCapital Solutions is not even involved in the redevelopment process with the City.

In summary, to suggest we have “problems swirling around,” is plain and simple – a total falsehood.

As always, I am fully prepared to answer any questions and we wish the City of Alexandria the best as they continue this important redevelopment effort.

James D. Howard, Jr.

April 5, 2010

In my opinion, this, ladies and gentlemen, is what it looks like when a newspaper defames someone.

A couple of other points:

Carty suggests that H.I.P. principal Roland Fontaine is suspect because one of his businesses was dissolved by the Arizona Secretary of State. Way to search the internet!

Has he ever spoken with Mr. Fontaine?

No.

If he had, then he would realize this was the result of a clerical error that occurred after Fontaine moved his headquarters from Scottsdale to Phoenix, and he’d know that it is being resolved. A simple clerical error– a return to sender– does not mean this man is a fraud. Try harder. Pick up the phone.

He also implied that Paul Cooper of H.I.P. should be scrutinized because a website for one of his companies was taken down. Seriously.

If he had called Paul Cooper, then he would have learned about his successful effort in saving a hotel deal in Baltimore, which is, more than likely, the same deal Carty read about on the Internet.

Has he ever spoken with Mr. Cooper?

No.

Here is our present situation: The editor of the one and only community newspaper is attempting to drive away tens of millions of dollars in private-sector investment from Alexandria based a handful of things he pieced together on the Internet– all without ever conducting a single interview or reviewing the development proposal with any of the principals. Kinda reminds me of our local blogosphere.

A couple of weeks ago, when Mr. Carty wrote that the Downtown Hotels Initiative had been scaled back (and compared it to V Vehicle), the folks at H.I.P. bit their tongues; they wanted to introduce themselves to the community on a good note (and I hope they still are afforded that opportunity), even though Carty was completely wrong: Nothing has been scaled back.

It baffles me that The Town Talk, particularly Paul Carty, would want to kill a deal he doesn’t understand. This is a project that will create more than 200 private-sector jobs, save an historical landmark, result in an immediate investment of nearly $60M, and create a long-term impact of nearly half a billion dollars. It’s being driven by the private-sector, and it represents the best possible way for the City to, once and for all, GET OUT OF THE HOTEL BUSINESS. (Isn’t that what he wants?)

I hope the paper has the dignity to finally speak with the people that Mr. Carty so callously tossed aside.

The Town Talk has a credibility problem, not H.I.P.

9 thoughts

  1. I am clueless as to why so many people are working so damn hard to discredit this whole Bentley deal. There must be something in the water..to give them such a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth.

  2. Thanks Lamar. It is indeed disturbing that Mr. Carty rushed to press inflammatory accusations without minimal proof or research. Equally disturbing, although not surprising, is the blind acceptance as seen in many comments at the Town Talk. Local newspapers are vital to a town and cities economy and integrity. The Town Talk, frankly, is neither. The City of Alexandria’s downtown, with few exceptions….sucks. The downtown could be a literal gold mine of economic, cultural, and social activity. Without a vibrant and active downtown, Alexandria will never grow into a city worthy of more than a passing glance from the bypass.

  3. It’s another great week for the Town Talk!

    That so well-researched editorial came a single day after they informed us all that Estonia is in southern Russia!

    I wonder what the people of (the nation of) Estonia and the European Union of which it is a part will have to say about their country moving a few thousand miles and becoming part of Russia?

    ——————————————————————–
    Carty and Jardon seem to have some strange motive in seeing all things SPARC and Downtown fail. They push their opinions onto the community as purported facts or unavoidable truths, attempting to sway public support away from any of these projects. Yet, they do so at the detriment of the community. They argue to the very people who would benefit from jobs created that the programs won’t work.

    Worst of all, they push for derailment of a majority private-sector redevelopment effort of our metropolitan centre at a time when they themselves have chosen to fire their local workforce and abandon their downtown location in favor of Lafayette.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Alex: I don’t get it either. I suppose some people believe that tearing others down is more important in building up the entire community. Skepticism is healthy and necessary, but a skeptic can only be credible if they do their homework.

    Ed and Matt: Thank you.

    Brian: Your comment reminds me of something Athenae at First-Draft.com posted a few months ago:

    Argument is heaven. Argument is like cotton-candy-covered chocolate caffeine sex all day long on acid, argument is why we’re on this planet. God dances when His children defeat Him in argument. Argument is how we learn and grow and push and change. It’s how we live. If you’re not here to argue — and I don’t mean that literally, you can say just as much with your actions — but if you’re not here to say something somehow in whatever voice you possess, then God, I don’t know what to do with you.

    When you lionize the refusal to raise one’s voice no matter the provocation, when you chalk an automatic in the loss column because somebody feels something, you’re making the world around you just a little more dead. And you can put that shit on an iPad or on a piece of paper or in a newscast or in a Happy Meal, and the delivery mechanism won’t matter. People won’t pay for it. And you know what? Even if you gave it to them for free, they won’t read it. Because it doesn’t matter.

    A good newspaper bleeds love for its community, cheerleads shamelessly for the betterment of all the people in its purview, argues passionately on behalf of those who cannot argue for themselves, and fights for what its leaders have decided to fight for, loudly and boldly and without apology. A lot of people think the problem with our elite media is that they fight for the powerful and comfortable and there’s lots of remedies prescribed for that (Stop hiring white college grads! Stop hiring inside the community! Stop hiring outside the community! Stop unpaid internships! Start unpaid “citizen journalism!” GAH, to all of it.). I think the problem is they don’t fight at all because they consider it uncouth.

    When you stifle the voices of passionate debate because they upset people, when you choose the blandest and least offensive tack in every situation, when you work so hard to fight for nothing that anyone with an opinion is automatically ruled out of order, you are not creating a newspaper that deserves to survive, no matter what format you decide to put it in. And that’s what’s happened over the past 20 years (one could argue, over the past 60). We’ve made ourselves smaller and smaller, hoping we’ll upset nobody, and it’s worked. Nobody’s upset. Nobody’s upset at all.

    Drew: I don’t think it’s true that both Jardon and Carty want SPARC and the Downtown Hotels Initiative to fail; they’ve given “beads” to both projects multiple times. But, in my opinion, The Town Talk got it wrong this time.

    I also find it curious, considering their attempt to divest property nearby.

    Finally, earlier a commenter on another blog stated that the City actually had the opportunity to make the entire deal happen, all with private dollars, as far back as July of 2008. That is a lie. Laughable. Ridiculous. I clearly remember the deal that was presented to the City two years ago; it involved the City putting up money and/or guaranteeing a loan for the purchase of private property- namely, the Hotel Bentley.

  5. Exceptional comments from your quote of Athenae. Although born and raised in the south, I have lived for many years outside of the borders of a hearty y’all. People in other parts of the country are more inclined to argue, sometimes not well or with grace, but they do speak up. The south has a deep seated inclination to not stir people up, to not look unseemly. All the while working behind the backs. Dialogue, discourse, and healthy debate are required for a democracy. To be honest, I don’t bother with the Town Talk because I don’t need to spend money for less than a page of information I am interested in, and, cannot find better online. Local news, well researched and reported, is quickly becoming a cousin of the dodo.

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