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September 17th, 2008
07:52 PM ET

Sarah Palin's complex situation

Editor's Note: Sarah Palin’s biggest project as a small town mayor left tax payers holding a massive bill for a sports complex. We go inside her legacy in Wasilla, Alaska. Watch Randi Kaye's report tonight on AC360 10p ET.

Randi Kaye
AC360° Correspondent

Supporters call it Sarah Palin’s “crowning achievement.” Her “lasting legacy.”

I’m talking about the Wasilla Sports Complex, a $15 million project that then-Mayor Sarah Palin pushed through.

Did I mention it has an indoor soccer field and the seats for the hockey arena are heated??

Palin asked residents to approve a 25 percent sales tax increase to pay for the $14.7 million dollar bond needed to build it which they did approve by a margin of just 20 votes.

But the project ended up costing the city millions of dollars because of missteps taken by the town.

The problem was Wasilla started building on the land before it actually owned the title to the land.

You see, the Nature Conservancy was negotiating to sell the land to Wasilla or to a businessman named Gary Lundgren in 1999.

The town hadn’t signed the purchase agreement for all the land it thought it owned, but Lundgren had.

Federal court handed the land to Lungdren saying the town hadn’t filed the proper papers. By then, though, Sarah Palin had already given the go-ahead to break ground.

After Palin left office, Mayor Diane Keller sued again and this time cut a deal with the businessman.

They settled for, get this, more than $800,000 plus another $700,000 in Lundgren’s legal fees and interest on the land.

Records show the town’s original offer on the land was just $145,000. By the time they settled and paid all those fees, it cost Wasilla more than $1.5 million and that doesn’t include the town’s own legal costs.

Plus, Lundgren told us he had offered at least twice to give the land in question to the town – free of charge! - if it would only stop the litigation. The town’s lawyer says he doesn’t recall an acceptable offer from Lundgren, but Lundgren says the town turned it down because it wanted more than the 20 acres he was offering so they could build a softball field and expand.

Wasilla City Council Member, Diane Woodruff, told me regarding Palin, “she inherited the city with no debt and suddenly we have a lot of debt. I don't think that labels her as a true fiscal conservative.”

But the current mayor says the complex has brought in millions of dollars for area businesses and it was a dream for the community, not just Sarah Palin.

Sound like a dream to you?


Filed under: Randi Kaye • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Jamone Moore

    Great report Randi! glad someone is uncovering the Alaskan dirt swept under the icy rug by Palin. Jim, Debra and Everett were you this upset when the CNN biased reporters brought up the story about Rezco? The republican lipstick pitbull hockey mom started the mud slinging, she has to get dirty too.

    September 18, 2008 at 12:30 am |
  2. Niki D

    I hold CNN to a very high standard and I am shocked that the powers at large are allowing Gov. Palin to get away with her selective approach to answering questions from the American public, the ENTIRE public and not just the Republican plants they staged today in there dog and pony show (aka "Town Hall Meeting"). The sports complex story is just another check mark in the bad judgement category of John McCain. It appears that after all is said and done, it is Senator McCain that is the sexist in all of this. He chose a woman as his VP based only on the fact that she is a woman. There is no greater sexism than that and to argue that she is qualified is just a bold lie. She DID NOT sell the plane on ebay, she WAS for the bridge before she was against it, she has left her small town in DEBT (nice complex or not debt is debt), she has ZERO knowledge of the world and who the players are, energy is her thing and even on that I am sure being a resident of Alaska automatically gives one a fundemental education on oil and drilling. McCain had my respect and still does for his service but he does not have my vote because of his judgement. How dare he risk our childrens lives and future by putting her so close to the red button.

    September 18, 2008 at 12:24 am |
  3. William Joseph Miller

    I might add that when Sarah Palin left office, Wasilla was about $ 20 million in debt, according to some sources.
    I don't understand all the ruckus of Sarah Palin's qualifications. She lies, she cheats, she covers-up and she leaves a town with a balanced budget in debt.
    Those are great qualificaitons for a Republican VP – even Cheney gave Palin his endorsement. Palin is a highly qualified Republican candidate – but she has no business anywhere near the White House.
    The Republican party must think we're fools.

    September 18, 2008 at 12:12 am |
  4. RonB

    How can anyone vote for Palin if she has never talked off script?
    Those questions asked by the audience seemed pre-scripted.
    Why is it that when Palin's experience is challenge, the McCain team questions Obama's experience? That is like interviewing for a job and saying how bad the other guy is and that you should have the job because he is worst.

    September 17, 2008 at 11:31 pm |
  5. Maureen/CA

    Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode of "Leave it to Palin" Watch as Sarah Palin debates Tonya Harding on just whose fault the whole constructing an ice rink on someone else's land thing is. Wally moderates. That crazy gun toting Sarah, always getting into trouble.

    September 17, 2008 at 11:29 pm |
  6. Robin

    Palin's answer to economic empowerment for women is her being a point guard? How does that translate into equal pay for women?

    September 17, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  7. Pam

    Sarah Palin scares me. Making sure that the land you are building on is free and clear, should have been the first step in the process. It sounds like she really doesn't care for anything other than what SHE wants. If she can't build a small town recreation center without causing lawsuits and major debt, what will she do with our already broken economy. Come on people...we can't afford Sarah Palin, or her lack of sound judgement.

    September 17, 2008 at 11:09 pm |
  8. Janice in the mountains

    In many municipalities/states, such poor managerial performance by Ms. Palin would result in being tossed out on her head. She doesn't appear to be fit to be a successful mayor, and we might put her one weak melanoma hearbeat from the presidency? This is truly nuts.

    September 17, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  9. EJ (USA)

    Thanks for the information Randi Kaye! (keep it comin!)

    September 17, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  10. Philip

    I read comments every night and wonder how Obama and McCain are tied. Does the other half of then country not see the news?

    September 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  11. carrie seattle wa

    Sarah I think its great you helped build a hockey facility for your community.....go back to your community and keep helping your fellow citizens make a better place for our children to grow up. .....Come back when you grow up girl. Embrace all humanity even if you do not agree . That is what our country and the world needs now.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  12. james

    Why is Palin doing all the speaking for McCain, can he not attract more than a crowd of one without Palin. Which one is running for president anyway????

    September 17, 2008 at 10:37 pm |
  13. Marjorie L. Schmidt

    It baffles me that any voter is looking for a steamroller in a skirt to become the nation's vice president.

    Even benign dictators have an agenda beyond gaining a title but Sarah Palin cannot or will not provide details of any prospective policy, which reflects about what her running mate is willing to reveal.

    My grandmother would have called these candidates pigs in a poke. My grandmother was a very wise person........and U.S. voters could do very well by exercising more wisdom than so rarely has been exhibited by the Republican Presidential campaign.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  14. Coco Casey Kalonji

    There’s no such thing as a match made in heaven. Anyone, of any us, can get along with anyone else if they really want to. Some relationships are easy to start. Over time, though, the novelty can wear off. Others begin with conflict but grow into mutual appreciation. Some wonderful marriages are like sparring partnerships while some couples who seem ideally suited can secretly loathe each other! The question is never, ‘Who am I supposed to be with?’ It’s ‘Who do I want, who wants me... and how hard are we both willing to work at it?’
    this is decision is awaiting America in november.The rest of us have moved on,remember Russia,china... their economy are growing rapidely,did i mention India?.There was a time when leadeship was about substance,the collapse of financial institutions beg a question,is there such a thing as an american nightmare???
    I'm sure an expert from alaska will certainly provide an answer to america brewing depression.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:34 pm |
  15. Larry

    The U.S. face many economy problems and we do not need anyone in office of President or Vice President with judgements like this. I believe she is a good and smart woman but I believe she is not ready to help run this country. People WAKE UP!

    September 17, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  16. LaRonda

    My question is why would Palin give an interview to Fox News Hannity and not CNN if she has nothing to hide and she knows all she needs to know about being VP then come forward. Also why try to stop the investagation into Troopergate until after the election is it because like President Bush if we had all the information about his National Guard service he would not be president now so we as Americans need to get to the truth of who Palin really is and stop falling all over her like she is the new coming of Christ for women I am happy we have a woman on one of the tickets but we need to be smarter and stop being blinded with her smile and big talk.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:30 pm |
  17. Kent, Illinois

    A 15 million dollar complex for a town of 9,000? Ridiculous Republican spending...............

    September 17, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  18. Carl Bailey

    I watched incredulously as the GOP Vice-Presidential candidate was asked a very cogent question regarding what detailed strategies she and McCain might pursur tp fiancially empower women. The answer we gpot was the expected fluf ending with some remark about "ask me for details, you can even play stump the candidate" (not difficult with this candidate. Additionally McCain added that she was a point guard on a basketball team ?????
    I huess my biggest question is, how did this abysmal effort come to be touted in the media as a successful outing for Palin?
    This is unbelievable, , , who's spinning who?

    September 17, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  19. Diane from DC

    Real hockey moms don't sit in heated seats.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:24 pm |
  20. RO

    Maybe I can get her to ask for $ to heat the football stadium seats so it won't be as cold during the cold nights! THAT is a WASTE...no wonder Wasilla was left with $15 million in debt...not only that, what a waste of electricity...

    September 17, 2008 at 10:23 pm |
  21. Henry Souda

    This is my first visit to this site. If I didn't know bette I would have said I signed into an MSNBC site. There seems to be a lot of left wing bias here. Are there any moderate citizens left in this country. How do we get rid of partisan gridlock with these kinds of opinions?

    September 17, 2008 at 10:21 pm |
  22. Orin

    Jolsen you must mean tropical storm. She is really not qualified for the job and McCain knows that. He is using this woman to win him the presidency. And it seems that these female voters are naive.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:19 pm |
  23. Cindy

    More of the same, we are in deep trouble in this country and this is the leadership the Republicans put forward. This is the femine Bush and that is so obvious.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  24. Taylor

    I like Gov. Palin but it is scary that the people she is surrounded by are all Bush people. It seems that every person in her camp that is giving her guidance is from the Bush administration. I voted for Bush both terms and to his credit he has brought us through some tough times but it is time to try another approach. McCain and Palin need some new and fresh people.

    September 17, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
  25. Grace RN

    And to think Nixon and GW the Second once scared me-she frightens the living daylights out of me!!!

    N.O.W. is backing Obama/Biden. Let's hope Americans wake up to the true load of c*** that the Republicans/Karl Rove are trying to shovel onto us this election year.

    It's become SOP for the Right to lie, lie lie and then...lie-anything to get us to vote for them. What happened to Palin agreeing to testify at her ethics investigation-the one that was started long before she was offered the VP slot? Now she's clammed up-what is she hiding? If there is nothing there as she claims, than fine, get it over and done with. Is she afraid that the cuffs will get slapped on her just after she takes the oath of office?

    I'm 57, hardworking and my BS meter was pegged a long time ago.
    Cut the crap, let's get back to fixing our beloved country!!!

    September 17, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  26. Fay, CA

    Are you also going to look into Palin using $50,000 of unauthorized city funds to redecorate her office in Wasilla?

    September 17, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  27. David

    Rev. Wright is coming to roost soon:)

    September 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  28. KenaiJoe

    As a 30 year resident on the Kenai Peninsula, I commend Sara Palin for her decision to run for the VP of the US of A. And yes, I believe she could be President if needed, and handle the job with the peoples' respect and trust that she would handle our problems with foreign nations properly, and IN OUR BEST INTEREST.
    The only question I have, is what about ANWAR? The Alaska oil pipeline has showed that we can build without harm to the environment. The area proposed for ANWAR drilling is miniscule, and should have very little or NO impact on the environment. Why don't they jump on that point?

    September 17, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  29. John

    The Mayor of Seabrook Texas has had make more hard decisions in the last five days after Ike that Palin Has in her life. and his city of 12,000 has lost 25% of its houses and more of it's business' .

    September 17, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  30. Joseph Oroza

    It is a really scary situation that Sarah Palin is so secretive about her past. No interviews, declining to participate in the investigation. Who is this woman? What is this woman hiding? How can we put our trust and confidence on a person we don't know anything about, who doesn't have foreign policy experience or knows anything about the economy and who's a hypocrit, preaching the "gospel" when she has a teengae daughter woh's pregnant and the are forcing the "daddy' to marry her against his will and her son who was an Oxycontin addict for a few years, as the commander in chief of the Government of the United States in case John Mc Cain passes on, which could be very possible at his age and having had four bouts with cancer? The country is a mess, we are in debt to the max, the economy is in he worse shape it has been in years, bankrupcies, foreclosures, the stock market, thanks to Bush's policies. Can we afford more of the same and can we afford to have this "hockey mom" lead the country? Since when is that a qualification? I am in awe of what this country has turned into. It is apalling and disgusting!

    September 17, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  31. Red State Ronnie

    Keep trying CNN the more you try to slime her the strong she gets...

    September 17, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  32. Brienne Feldman

    Good idea, poor management. Maybe she was too busy staring down Russia to notice that she was trespassing? I don't even want to think about what 'minor details' will be ignored with this duo in the White House!

    September 17, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  33. eye opener-open your eyes America-PA

    I don't know why anyone is hpying this woman up to be more than what she really is. Since she came on the seen and what most conservatives thought her speech was awesome; me personally, I thought it was vain. She was just the same ole, same ole McBush/McCaine/McPalin-McInsane-Mcnasty. No substanced or compassion for all Americans, not womanly at all....Does this elitess ignorant, arrogant female think for one minute that she along with McCain elude the American people this time. I know not, not this time.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  34. Candy Wilson

    My first problem with her is simply her level of education. A bachelors degree in Journalism.. who more to put a spin on a story? HA!HA! Love you guys! I am really writing because I want to know how the dear sweet young man who is on in he morning , how his grandmother is doing?? He was able to talk with her last week and she was in serious trouble from the hurricane last week .. It was just a precious moment and I have been thinking of her all week and wondering if she ever got her power back on and food and etc.. Is there anyway you all can help me>? I can't remember his name and I can't seem to get to the site again that shows all the announcers. she was living somewhere in La. thankyou so much if he can e-mail me back, Sincerely, Candy Wilson PS God Bless

    September 17, 2008 at 9:26 pm |
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