September 17th, 2008
07:52 PM ET

Sarah Palin's complex situation

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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. Kate

    After reading this blog, the thought of Palin being second in command (maybe even first) scares me. If she can't even handle being a Mayor of a small town, how can she handle being VP of the U.S.? Our economy is already hurting and we cannot afford to have someone as frivolous as Palin be the VP (heated seats, really?). If Palin can't even make sure all documentation is in order before groundbreaking, how do we know she won't mess up even worse in office?

    September 17, 2008 at 9:25 pm |
  2. Brian

    This is just another piece of evidence that show's she's not ready for complex decision making.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    One should always wait for clear title before one builds. Impatience seems to be the main problem on this. It looks like there were a lot of errors along the way – not all of them Palin's. I hope that the sports complex does make money for the town; if it does in the end that's all anyone will remember.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 17, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  4. jolsen

    Hurricane Palin strikes again...

    September 17, 2008 at 9:13 pm |
  5. jrq La Habra, Ca.

    I'm speechless and yet not surprised. And just think she 'could' be our next President someday.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  6. Claudia from AZ

    No it does not sound like a dream. Nightmare is more like it. She sounds just like Bush when he was running for president. Promised to reform the Republican administration, promised to curb government, and promised the same things McCain promises and instead gave us debt. 14 trillion worth. Sarah Palin is just like Bush except way more dangerous. Bush always looked dumb, she is pretty and well poised. We will be in deep trouble if they are elected.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  7. Larry from Georgetown, Tx

    If this is what we have to look forward to with a McCain/Palin ticket we're in real trouble America. Wake up and stop smelling roses and smell the real manure their shoveling.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:09 pm |
  8. lisa

    >sound like a dream to you??
    Yes. A really, really bad republican dream.
    Openness, transparency, accountability? pshaw, those are just words.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  9. Ratna, New York, NY

    Thank you for this report Randi!

    September 17, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  10. Mike in a state of confusion

    I am wondering how Washington reform plays into this story from a little town way North. It sounds like typical "Washington" politics.

    I understand getting excited about a project and finding one's self in over their heads, as it appears the Mayor did regarding the sports arena. I just hope the voting public don't let her get in over her head when it comes to putting our brave military in harms way.

    I still can't believe they didn't do a proper title search on the land. I even know that and I am not running for any office.

    I am Mike and I approved this message, dang it.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  11. Paul MD

    The more I read about this lady the scareier she sounds.
    Please someone find a way to reassure me that I am wrong.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  12. Abigail

    Well it looks like Palin is every bit as competent as Bush and company. What a disaster.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  13. Cooper

    Sounds like more of a nightmare to me. People automatically think Republicans are fiscally responsible, simply because the Republicans constantly say that they are. If people took the time to dig deep into these politicians, they would see the complete opposite – especially with Sarah Palin.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:01 pm |
  14. Hank in Texas

    Sounds to me like an example of poor business judgement. Gee, could this possibly fit into a pattern of poor decision making for Sarah Palin ?

    September 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  15. Fred Goepfert

    Randi Kaye evidently thinks heated setas for an indoor soccer field in Alaska is a luxury. Perhaps if the reporter experienced a frost-bitten butt
    a new opinion could be formed.

    September 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  16. Ted

    I am starting to realize that most things the McCain campaign and Sara Palin say just don't quite ring true in the light of day. The country is already in debt the last thing we need is somebody like Palin in a position to push us farther down the well. The dream ticket of McCain Palin is sounding more and more like a nightmare ticket. Like Obama and Biden I believe in the American people and I believe come election day they will do the right thing . If not hold on to your boot straps cause we are going down to tubes.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  17. Madeline

    If the community is happy with the complex and the town is benefitting financially from its existence, I don't understand the problem. Sure, there were problems along the way but is this really shocking? Had it turned out that the complex was a complete waste of money, then this would be a legitimate issue. Does Mr. Lundgren have any proof that he actually offered the land free of charge or should we just accept his word over that of the town's lawyer?

    September 17, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  18. Judith S Rogers

    Not a dream more of a nightmare. But what else would you expect from a self-serving 'experienced'???? Hockey Mom who is not there for the children she is a Mom to.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:56 pm |
  19. Steve Chambers

    Sounds like a story of greed on the Wasilla Government's side as it wanted more more more in land. Reminds me of W's baseball team that was a money pit. This proves time and again that Republicans are unfit to run a lemonade stand for profit.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm |
  20. Don Fox

    John McCain, kiss it all goodbye because Sarah is nothing but a criminal now that she has declined to cooperate. My Vice-President? What are you smoking? No way anyday........

    I believe and government leader in our country that does not cooperarte with a subpoena should leave this country because they certainly don't believe in the American way of life.

    I was going to vote for you is what's so bad about it.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  21. Robert Deming

    Where is the money the facility took in? Sounds a little "palin" to me!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  22. Kyle (Sacramento, CA)

    Drip drip drip!!!! The true history of Sarah Palin is coming in verrrrrry sloooowly. The bridge to full disclosure is sure to be completed only after November 4th, but by then the whole country could be left in the cold from this snowjob if she is elected.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm |
  23. Ann

    I guess I don't get it.....What is so complex about Palin....Everyone can see she is very right wing conservative.....Maybe in the old times ...this was good.....Come on people, our economy is slowing spiralling, education-kids are having a hard time finding loan institution.....etc.etc etc.....Get on the plan for today.....Obama has a much brighter and smarter package than the replubicans!!!!!!.......oh and please stop saying this on the news....That all women love Palin.....Yuck!!!!! in so many facets!!!!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  24. Barbara-Dallas

    I would be more surprised if Palin built a school or library rather than a stadium. Nest thing she will build as a VP is going to be a 10Bn radar station in Alaska to protect us from russian missiles. As far as miscalculation of other people's money, it goes along well with the the current republican agenda: spend like there is no tomorrow while talking about being conservative.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  25. sheila hofstetter

    Sarah Palin promises no "behind closed door politics", but she hides behind a curtain. Does she know that she will be facing a lot scarier people than Wolf and Anderson, if she were to be VP?
    Talk about reverse sexism, would the press let a male candidate get away with acting like a Royal? Isn't the entire campaign a job interview? Would you hire someone you never got a chance to talk to without a script? Sarah Palin, your inability to meet the press demonstrates your lack of readiness for the job.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  26. BrianC Illinois

    Doesn't surprise me in the least bit. Someone who's come onto the national stage for approx. 2 weeks and makes speeches to the effect of being a renegade reformer BEFORE the due diligence of her political record is completed, is painfully learning that the truth always comes out, whether you are Obama, McCain, Biden, or even, yes, Ms. Sarah Palin.Americans have wised up over the years, and hopefully won't elect a candidate simply based on his character, or even his record to be president of the United States. I think voters realize you have to NOT BE PART of THE PROBLEM in order to BRING ABOUT CHANGE!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:52 pm |
  27. JustinM

    If you believe Sarah Palin is going to bring about change in fiscal policy, I got a bridge in Alaska ...

    September 17, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  28. Tim Dayton, OH

    Hmmmm! Palin sounds like a democrat to me. After all dont democrats just tax tax tax? A 25% sales tax? So, let me see if I would buy a Coke for $1.00 it would really cost me $1.25 because the .25 is tax. NOT! When former President Clinton left office wasn't there a surplus? And wasn't he a democrat? Today we have a republican president and an economic bust and back then when a democrat was in office an economic boon. What gives?

    September 17, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  29. Philip Kulp

    Sounds like a nightmare. Mrs Palin seems truly accomplished but her accomplishments leave a lot to be desired. And now she's taking on the "refuse to cooperate" position on Troopergate...hmmm smells just like George Bush. She'll fit right in nicely I think.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:47 pm |
  30. Tracy Kennedy, Colonial Heights, VA

    Randi Kaye, you're amazing. You're like the Superwoman of reporting. Great job!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:47 pm |
  31. Everett Sims (USMC retired)

    If that's the best you can do in trying to degrade Gov. Palin, you should just quit.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  32. Bob

    Sarah Palin - the reformer – or the one who needs to be reformed? How can someone who wants to hold other people's feet to the fire refuse to cooperate with an investigation into her own dealings! I am appalled at this selection for VP. Is this another hypocrytical iron fist? Is she the next Spitzer? Better yet, is she going to go to Washington as the new-age McCarthy? McCain said she is going to reform all of Washington. How? What? There are many places to start. We haven't seen anything but political rhetoric. There is so little in her list of accomplishments that CNN had to go back to her playing basketball on a fractured ankle to prove how "tough" she is. I was actually on the fence about the two candidates until they announced who their VP picks were. I think that tells a lot about their judgement. Every day, I am more convinced that Barack Obama has shown far better judgement.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  33. debra

    I'd say the current mayor of Wasilla has the real scoop. But it doesn't seem to matter........... why are you so BENT on making something out of NOTHING! Is this another example of bias? Or just plain desperate to be on the cutting edge of attacking Sarah Palin. Journalism has stooped pretty darn low.... where's the integrity?

    September 17, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  34. Brad Melton

    Governor Palin should not be faulted for her lack of experience. Some of the most inexperienced leaders make the best leaders. But she should come under incredible scrutiny because of her idealogical approach to some of the most vexing issues facing the Republic since The Great Depression and World War II. What we need now more than ever is ideas, NOT the doctrine of belief. Ideology got us where we are today; George Bush's intransigent insistence of 'staying the course' and unwillingness to consider any reasoned discussion that would challenge his belief has gotten us mired in an overseas war, racked the economy and forestalled any real attempts to find decent solutions to monumental problems. The philosophical underpinnings of Gov. Palin's beliefs come from the Religious Right. It's time the preachers are driven from the body politic and back to the pulpit where they belong. Why are we letting a minority ideology drive the most important decisions of the executive branch of our government? It's asinine and ludicrous!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:44 pm |
  35. Ray Fisher

    The honeymoon is over, time for Sarah to go home to the mooses, meeses or whatever they call them up there!!!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:39 pm |
  36. Jack

    When she was a governor she misused her powers to Fire her B-in law ...what will she do when she will be the VP...send the CIA to shoot him....... ANOTHER DICK CHENEY IN THE MAKING

    September 17, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  37. B. Smart

    Just look at her eyes. There's something there that tells me she in
    no way qualified for possible Commander in Chief. And she knows it.
    McCain is attempting to pull off a very dangerous fraud on the country.
    He should be held accountable.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:38 pm |
  38. Jim

    Every Blog ...Every Story from CNN and MSNBC is a tear down of Republicans. Please tell everyone your party affiliation and stop trying to hide behind your stories as un-biased.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  39. Jim

    Sarah Palin is the new Dan Quayle...

    September 17, 2008 at 8:36 pm |
  40. lawrence briskey

    Palin is lying egotistic right-wing religous fanatic. Nothing would be worse than aMcCain/Palin ticket running this country!!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:36 pm |
  41. Annie, Memphis

    Anderson ,what I dont understand is that if she cant govern a small town like Wasilla how is she going to help run the government. She talks about being a Maverick and a reformer I dont think the she knows the meaning of reform or being a maverick. The policies of the McPalin ticket I see will only be like the last eight years.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:35 pm |
  42. Betty Ann, Nacogdches,TX

    Hi Randi,
    Sounds like Ms. Palin is not so conservative after all. Hmm, who would have guessed? 😉
    She has children at home who really need her. We don't.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm |
  43. Rose from Muscoy, Calif


    Can we get any truth from Sarah Palin?

    Palin promises no TAX! And she put a Sports Complex that costs the TAXPAYERS of Alaska 14.7 million dollars?
    Sarah Palin call herself a FISCAL CONSERVATIVE?

    September 17, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  44. danielle

    ENOUGH!! Talk about Obama betraying our country. It is a sports arena not a crime against our nation. at least she gave the citizens someplace to go in alaska. eventually the sports complex paid for itself with revenues and jobs. in a state that sports and outdoor life are central the complex served as a community center. by the way the town did vote and it was approved even if by the smallest of margins. this is media nonsense. please i challenge you to report on the fact that Biden's son was a washington lobbyist who benefited from his dad's contacts. dig there i bet all you have to do is scratch the surface. just the fact that he left the firm and went to work for a hedge fund at a salary of a reported 1.2 million for no experience sounds fishy to me. a father in the senate is worth the hefty price tag.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  45. Bitter Voter in Ohio - Dayton

    I will NEVER trust Palin with my money.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  46. Cindy

    How is this Sarah Palin's fault. Was she in charge of making sure all of the correct papers were signed? I think that was the lawyer's, in charge of buying the land, mistake. Then the county suing Lundgren had absolutely nothing what so ever to do with Sarah because she wasn't even in office then! She had no control over what the county chose to do. They didn't accept the land for free because they wanted all of the land, well that is on them. It has nothing to do with her.

    This looks like to me that CNN and Randi are just up in Alaska trying to dig up any old thing that they can throw at Sarah to dirty her up and to make a story out of. Give it a rest! Your bias is definitely showing on this one!


    September 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm |
  47. Jesse

    Q why doesn't the media hold a town hall meeting in Wasilla?

    I bet you a million dollars that Palin wouldn't show up or get run out of town.

    This VP has no shame and doesn't have an honest bone in her body!

    The fact that they won't give evidence at a hearing now is just beyond words.

    If it was the average joe, they would have thrown them in jail!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  48. Jeni, Evansville

    Once again we see how this woman has set things in motion which have eventually led to the taxpayers paying the bill! If it happened in a small town like Wasilla, what do you think will happen if she becomes Vice-President?

    September 17, 2008 at 8:12 pm |
  49. Sue, Billerica, MA

    Gee, it sounds like she wasn't even qualified to be a small Alaskan town Mayor. And with even less knowledge of international politics, economic and constitutional issues, McCain in his misjudgment deemed her qualified to be one very old heart beat away from President.

    And I find it interesting that I read, Palin as mayor nixed a plan to make much needed improvements to the library for a lot less money but lo and behold, made massive debt creating improvements to the hockey mom's pastime of hockey.

    I bet her evangelical base and church are hoping when in a position of international power, she will show them the same type of favoritism. Lets pray if they win, that McCain stays healthy!

    September 17, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  50. T. Grissom

    Palin and her decision making skills are a nightmare! Except where it concerns herself she has successfully decided how to get into the limelight and she's decided she likes it. I can't believe that rational people listen to her and say that she is smart.

    September 17, 2008 at 8:04 pm |
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