Paradee

After FightDECorruption.com published the article below, Senator Paradee was offered the opportunity to present his side of the story. This resulted in an extensive online dialogue which is printed following the original article.

Trey Paradee—”I was not aware”

On June 25, 2019, Senator Trey Paradee introduced SB 178 which allowed “the Kent County Levy Court to impose a lodging tax, not greater than 3%, in Kent County.”  This seems reasonable enough on the surface mirroring similar lodging tax legislation in the other two Delaware counties.  However, this bill had a unique provision providing that:

The revenue collected from the imposition of the local lodging tax shall, when collected, be directed to the Kent County Regional Sports Complex Corporation, a nonprofit organization, which operates the County-sponsored DE Turf facility located in Kent County near Frederica. The Kent County Regional Sports Complex Corporation shall use the revenue provided exclusively for the DE Turf facility to allow the facility to remain competitive by advertising, promoting, and providing incentives for use of the facility, to establish a program to benefit youth by providing to youth organizations and scholastic institutions the opportunity to use its facility at reduced cost, and to maintain, improve, and support the facility through the payment of costs, expenses, and associated debt.

No other Delaware lodging tax legislation included language specifying how the money was to be used.  A December, 2019 News Journal article reported that:

Senator Trey Paradee

“Gov. John Carney signed Sen. Paradee’s hotel tax bill into law this summer before an investigation by The News Journal found that the senator’s brother, John, sat on the board of DE Turf, a sports complex near Frederica that was set to be the sole recipient of the revenue. The investigation also found that John Paradee was championing an adjacent development whose fortunes are linked to those at DE Turf, according to a recent project brochure.

Senate Leaders have accepted Trey Paradee’s claims of not knowing about his brothers investments and there will be no inquiry by the Senate Ethics Committee. The News Journal reported that the General Assembly Division of Research could not find a record of any Senate ethics investigation after 1986.

Long term readers of the News Journal may find themselves less credulous than Senate Leaders.  In a News Journal article from 2014 the Paradee brothers went through the same “I didn’t know, I was not aware” routine regarding the same conflict of interest.   Talk about déjà vu!  That was five years before the hotel tax—and now the Senator’s memory has been wiped clean again.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the two News Journal articles: 

October 2014
News Journal
December 2019
News Journal
An October 2014 article in the News Journal reported on lobbying by the Greater Kent Committee for a highway interchange which would benefit Delaware Turf and John Paradee’s adjacent Asbury Square development.  According to the article both John and Trey Paradee were advocating for the interchange.

The article reported that, “As a member of the Greater Kent Committee, John Paradee helped craft the bylaws and other legal documents for the corporation that would own and operate
the complex.”  The article also stated, “John Paradee said his brother is not involved in the ownership of Asbury Square.”

“My brother is his own man,” he said. “I don’t think my brother even knows that I own property in the area.”

Trey Paradee, a Dover Democrat, said Friday that he didn’t know. The brothers hold differing views on land use and development, and don’t discuss such things, Trey Paradee said.

“That’s totally news to me,” Trey Paradee said. “I never had the feeling he’s tried to lobby me or influence me in any way.  I’m totally taken off guard. I’d like to have more information. In some ways, I wish he had been forthcoming with me.”
A December 2019 News Journal article reported that:

“Both brothers say there was no conspiracy to benefit John Paradee or his projects. Critics, including some lawmakers, have denounced the situation as a blatant conflict of interest. “The findings”, Sen. Paradee wrote in an email to The News Journal, “will likely plague me as long as I choose to remain in politics.”

Following this revelation, Senator Paradee vowed to undo the hotel tax at the beginning of the next session and John Paradee resigned from the DE Turf Board.  The News Journal reported that “he had “no idea” about his brother’s involvement in DE Turf when he sponsored the bill.”

 
In October, Senator Trey Paradee published an Op Ed attempting to put the matter to rest.  He stated,

“As hard as this might be for some to believe, my brother and I rarely discuss our work. When we do find an opportunity to chat, our conversations focus on our children, our mother’s health, and just about anything but work and board meetings. I was not aware that he was a member of the DE Turf’s volunteer board…”
 

Response from Senator Paradee

I applaud your efforts to promote ethics reform in Delaware. I’m sure you will like some of the legislation I hope to release soon related to campaign finance reform. Of course, I was pretty dismayed to see my name so prominently displayed on your new website as an example of corruption in our state. Honestly, it hurts, and it’s frustrating to me. The reporter who wrote the series of articles in the News Journal intentionally and with malice omitted certain key facts related to the evolution of the hotel tax proposal. I assume you know some of this because you referenced the op-ed that I wrote in which I explained the entire backstory. I was misled and hung out to dry by people who I trusted and who failed to speak the truth or defend me from false allegations when the News Journal began printing the articles. Even worse – people who were interviewed and did speak the truth had their comments omitted from the stories because their comments did not fit the narrative being spun by the News Journal. But please do not take my word for it. You speak highly of my friend and colleague, Bryan Townsend. Here’s Bryan’s take on the hotel tax debacle and how unfairly I was portrayed in the press.  And here is my op-ed that the News Journal very grudgingly agreed to print – but only after they made a few edits.
 If you re-read my op-ed (even in its edited form), you will see that I was not involved in the drafting of the language, and it was Sen. Colin Bonini (R) who attempted to have the language placed into the epilogue of the Bond Bill – not me. There was no grand conspiracy involved between my brother and I. I was asked to introduce the bill at the last minute after Bonini failed in his efforts because I’m an honest, hardworking guy who is well-liked and respected by my colleagues. That’s the same reason why I was recently appointed to be the Senate Chair of the Joint Finance Committee. If I was the type of guy that appeared in the News Journal stories about the hotel tax, I doubt President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola and Majority Leader Bryan Townsend would have chosen me to be their JFC Chair. I was assured by the leadership of the DETurf that EVERY legislator in Kent County was in support (true) and that a majority of Kent County Levy Court commissioners wanted it (also true). I never once had a conversation about the stupid bill or the stupid hotel tax with my brother – but those facts don’t sell newspapers. The whole story is so distorted in a sad attempt to create a controversy where there truly is none. My name and reputation were expendable for the sake of selling newspapers. My colleagues understand this, which is why many of them refuse to speak with the reporter who wrote the stories.

I would like to address your side-by-side comparison of the news articles that appeared five years apart. There is a perfectly reasonable and true explanation. My older brother is considered to be one of the best land-use attorneys in the state. As a result, his knowledge and talents are in high demand. Over his 30+ year career, he has literally been involved in thousands of land development projects on behalf of clients, and I understand, along the way, he has become involved in some projects personally as well. My brother does not share information with me about his clients or his personal investments, but I do occasionally hear things in the community or read things in the paper about projects that he’s representing. I have people ask me all the time, “Hey, did you know your brother is doing this _____ project in (insert name of town)?” Or, “Hey, I heard your brother was at a Board of Adjustment meeting on behalf of ______. What do you know about it?” I literally hear stuff like that dozens of times a year, and, 99 times out of 100, I have no clue what the person is talking about, and, honestly, I really don’t care because it’s none of my business. I can’t reasonably be expected to remember a question that someone asked me five years ago about a land deal in some town involving my brother because it doesn’t register with me, it’s not important to me, and I get asked questions like that all the time. I guess I need to start keeping a running ledger of places where my brother and/or his clients may or may not have a project going. My point in all this, Jack, is simple. I’m a good guy. You should get to know me. I didn’t deserve what the News Journal did to me, and it’s wrong of you to regurgitate their false narrative. If you want to truly be a voice against corruption, you owe it to your readers to present stories that are well-researched and accurate. I do not deserve to be on your wall of shame. If you knew the facts and understood the truth, you would agree. The truth and the facts matter to you, right?

I had a conversation earlier today with Dave Sokola. During our conversation, he mentioned that the two of you had spoken, and there was some discussion about my assertion that I was unaware of my brother being a member of the DETurf Board. It’s true – I really didn’t. I’ll give you some of the interesting and funny backstory about that point. Shortly after the reporter asked me about my brother’s involvement with the DETurf Board, I texted both my older brother and older sister about the matter and asked my brother to confirm it. My sister responded first with something like, “I didn’t know you were on the DETurf Board, John.” The fact is that John and I live very busy lives. I doubt he could tell you everything that appears on my résumé, and, clearly, I don’t keep very good track of everything he is involved in. What if I am telling the truth that I had no idea that my brother was on the DETurf Board? Wouldn’t you feel terrible knowing that you falsely accused me? Wouldn’t you feel terrible that you had perpetuated an untrue conspiracy theory? Is it fair to accuse me of lying when there is zero proof that I am lying? Is it fair to accuse me of being a liar based solely upon the assumption that “Oh, they’re brothers so he must have known that his brother was on the board”? I hope that’s not what you mean by “Advocacy Journalism”. To me, “journalism” requires an honest attempt to find the truth and to only make assertions or draw conclusions when there are solid facts to support those assertions and conclusions. “Journalism” does not mean “it appeared in the News Journal, therefore it must be true”.

Below is another exchange with Senator Paradee’s comments in italics.

I have carefully read your email, your original Op Ed as submitted to the News Journal and Bryan Townsend’s Guest Column.

You maintain that the News Journal reporting was unfair and misleading because they failed to report the “backstory” including Senator Bonini’s efforts to insert the tax into the bond bill and the broad support for this bill from both the Levy Court and the Kent County legislative delegation.

However, the News Journal did not fail to report this “backstory” stating “The News Journal also found that Sen. Paradee sponsored his legislation only after similar language failed to be inserted into the Bond Bill.”

While you may be technically correct, the fact is that the reporter chose to minimize Bonini’s involvement and instead created a narrative that my brother and I must have somehow been in cahoots for months to create the legislation. Clearly, that is the narrative that the reporter spun, and, judging from all the horrible comments and accusations I read on the internet about my family, the reporter successfully convinced thousands of people that my brother and I, along with the help of our sister, passed a law, creating a tax that would funnel thousands of dollars directly into the pockets of my brother. The entire narrative is ludicrous, far-fetched, and based upon wild speculation–not facts.

You do understand that the legislation did not actually create a tax, right? I assume you do, but, judging from the phrasing of some of your questions, I just want to be sure. The legislation would have given Kent County Levy Court the authority to enact a hotel lodging tax to benefit DETurf, but, by their own by-laws, Kent County Levy Court could only vote to enact the tax after discussing the matter in an open, properly noticed, public meeting. For anyone to believe that the Paradee brothers came up with a scheme to enact a tax for their own personal benefit, they’d also have to believe that we somehow managed to dupe the Governor, the General Assembly, and the Kent County Levy Court into going along with it. That would be quite a feat!

I was particularly dismayed by the reporter’s willful omission of comments made by multiple legislators who were interviewed for the stories that appeared in the News Journal. I had legislators contact me – both Republicans and Democrats – to tell me that they had given very explicit details of how the entire matter went down from their perspectives – facts and details that would have exonerated me, but their comments were either edited or left out entirely if their comments did not fit the reporter’s narrative. One of those legislators was Bryan Townsend, who was moved to write the op-ed in my defense because he felt that his comments to the reporter had been ignored and that I was being treated unfairly.

Your Op Ed states “The Bond Bill co-chairs insisted the hotel tax be voted on as separate legislation like every other hotel lodging tax that has passed without controversy in recent years.” However, SB 178 was an unusual and unique lodging tax bill with all the revenue directed to DETurf which is a private entity.

True. But that’s exactly what the leadership of the DETurf and the Kent County Levy Court wanted and agreed upon. My understanding is that the Kent County Levy Court leadership did not want other entities, causes, or organizations to petition them for a cut of the tax proceeds. The fact is that the Kent County Levy Court leadership could have asked for the legislation to be amended – to remove the language specific to DETurf–before it was brought before the General Assembly, but they didn’t. In fact, on the daythat the bill was to be considered, the Kent County Levy Court leadership sent the County Administrator to Legislative Hall on their behalf to be present to speak in support of the bill if necessary. No one from Kent County Levy Court ever spoke up to say that they wanted more flexibility to determine how the tax revenues could be allocated. And, again, Levy Court could only vote to enact the tax after a properly noticed public meeting.

Your Op Ed also states that following the preliminary backstory “Up until that point, my role was no different than any other Kent County legislator.” However, your role was different because your brother owned the twenty-one acre Asbury Square development next to DETurf which would receive the lodging tax revenue estimated at nearly $1 million annually. Two other Kent County legislators recused themselves from voting on SB 178 because they were members of the DETurf Board.

To the best of my understanding, it is not accurate to say that “my brother owned the twenty-one acre Asbury Square development”. I believe it’s still an empty field. I do not know much about the details. To this day, I have never sat down with my brother and had him explain the particulars of the project. I have never asked to see a plot plan. Why would I? His investments are none of my business. I don’t show him my IRA monthly statements. It is my understanding that there are multiple parcels involved. I believe some of the land is owned by my brother’s clients. Some is owned by former clients. John owns some minority interest in at least one of the parcels. I have no idea the percentage of his ownership or how much he has invested, but I know it is not accurate to portray him as the sole owner of a 21-acre development.

When I was first asked questions about the project after the close of the 2019 legislative session, I assumed that my brother’s involvement was just as an attorney representing a client or group of clients on some project in the vicinity of DETurf. I could not have found it on a map if someone put a gun to my head, and, to the best of my recollection, I do not recall the reporter ever saying the words “Asbury Square” – not that I would have necessarily recognized that name. While it is true that my brother was representing a group of clients, I did not realize until weeks after the story had broken that he was also a minority shareholder in at least part of the project. I’m sorry that I did not immediately run to my brother to demand answers and information about his personal business matters, but I didn’t.

In order for you (or anyone for that matter) to believe that I did something nefarious, you would have to believe that I knew about my brother’s involvement or investment in the Asbury Square project. I didn’t. I know that may be hard for you to believe, but it’s true. I also do not know how much money he has in his bank account. I don’t know if he owns shares of Apple or Facebook or any other companies for that matter. I don’t know how much he owes on his mortgage or how much life insurance coverage he has or who he buys it from. Conversely, he does not know how much money I have saved for retirement or how I have it invested. Why should anyone expect me to know how my brother spends or invests his money? I am astounded that so many people accuse me of doing something sneaky and nefarious based upon the assumption that, because John and I are related, I must know all the intimate details of my brother’s investments and the dealings of his clients, as well as all the boards and organizations that John has ever served on.

I propose that you own sponsorship of SB 178 despite the backstory and the rushed legislative timetable. No one forces a Delaware Senator to sponsor a bill.

True, no one forced me to do anything. I was trying to help the best economic development project to happen in Kent County since Dover Downs Speedway opened in 1969. The Levy Court leadership and the leadership of DETurf (Chechett and Strickland) felt that it was imperative that DETurf receive the additional funding so they could compete for large tournaments that would be booked for upcoming 2020 tournament season. Waiting six months for the next legislative session and then waiting another couple of months for Levy Court to hold public hearings and enact the tax would be too late. They had already lost (they claimed) tournaments to other facilities.

This is the type of tournament they were trying to compete for. When that event happened in 2018, it filled virtually every hotel room on the Delmarva peninsula. That is not an exaggeration. Participants and their families were forced to book hotels as far away as Annapolis and Philadelphia. According to DETurf officials, the tournament was supposed to return the following year (2019), but the sponsors voided the contract, choosing instead to incur a penalty of several thousand dollars, in order to accept an offer from another venue that was willing to pony up some cold, hard cash to get the tournament. According to DETurf officials, the competitive landscape had changed quickly, and they needed a fund, comprised of hotel tax dollars derived from out-of-state visitors, in order to compete on the new pay-for-play landscape. The results would be more mega-tournaments, leading to more job creation, additional tax revenue for the state from out-of-state visitors, and other benefits to Delawareans. Sounded like a reasonable idea at the time – not just to me, but to nearly the entire General Assembly.

I’m assuming that you now acknowledge your family conflict of interest. As reported in this News Journal Article, your brother resigned from the DETurf Board and you filed a bill to repeal the hotel tax.

The premise of your question is incorrect. I did not file “a bill to repeal the hotel tax”. I filed a bill to take away Kent County Levy Court’s authority to enact a hotel tax. The situation certainly created a perceived conflict of interest (obviously), and that’s bad enough. I would never want anyone to have the impression that I would use my office to enrich myself or any member of my family. That is why I filed the bill to strip Levy Court of their authority to enact the tax. I also hoped that repealing that authority would essentially force certain members of Levy Court to take responsibility for their role in the matter.

The fact is that, even if the tax had been implemented, it’s difficult to quantify how, or even if, my brother would benefit. It’s worth noting that, when the story broke, the Delaware Hotel and Lodging Association was vehemently opposed to the tax and argued that it would hurt hotels throughout Kent County – especially those in southern Kent County in the proximity of the DETurf.

A few paragraphs back, you referred to the DETurf as a “private entity”. In fact, the DETurf is a non-profit. It does not have shareholders who would personally benefit. It does not exist to earn a profit. The members of the board do not receive any compensation whatsoever. People have tried to make it sound like the tax money would somehow be funneled directly into the pockets of DETurf executives, board members, and, of course, John Paradee, but that is simply not true.

It is important to understand that DETurf did not need the tax money to survive. That was never the point. They were not in any sort of financial distress. A hotel across the street from the DETurf would derive the least amount of benefit from the hotel tax of any hotel in Delaware for the simple fact that a hotel across the street would not need mega tournaments in order to stay booked.

Smaller, regional tournaments would likely keep a hotel across the street plenty full throughout the spring, summer, and fall. In fact, an argument could be made that the hotel tax would put a hotel in Frederica at a competitive disadvantage to hotels just a short drive away in Sussex County, where there is no hotel tax. In fact, that was part of the argument being made by the Delaware Hotel and Lodging Association. The hotel tax was never about bailing out the DETurf or helping a hotel or development across the street. The hotel tax was not about helping hotels, restaurants, and planned commercial developments within a 10 to 15-mile radius. The tax was really designed to help DETurf compete for mega-tournaments that would fill hotels and restaurants in places like North Dover, Smyrna, Middletown, Harrington, Odessa, Georgetown, and Seaford. The premise that the hotel tax would directly benefit my brother was a failed premise from the outset, but, hey, why let facts get in the way of a good story, right?

Your Op Ed defense against the conflict-of-interest charge is that you were not aware your brother owned the Asbury Square development when you agreed to sponsor SB 178. However, the News Journal reported extensively on your brother’s role in the October 2014 article stating:

“One of the developers of Asbury Square is John W. Paradee, a Dover land-use lawyer, and a vocal advocate of the sports complex. He’s also the brother of state Rep. W. Charles “Trey” Paradee. A member of the Greater Kent Committee, John Paradee helped craft the bylaws and other legal documents for the corporation that would own and operate the complex.”

It’s this 2014 article which has me questioning your credibility in denying knowledge of Asbury Square in 2019. The six pages of material I received from you don’t even mention Asbury Square which contributes to the impression that you are still not totally forthcoming. Aside from the backstory issue, you don’t specify facts or quotations which the News Journal got wrong. That might help your case.

In the end, I have only one question. How is it possible that you were unaware of your brother’s Asbury Square development following the News Journal article in 2014? If you can point to misleading News Journal reporting which might account for that, I remain open minded.

About two weeks after the first News Journal story appeared, a reporter from the Associated Press left a message on my voicemail. He said something like, “Hey, I am following up on the story that appeared in the News Journal. You do realize that you were asked about that same project in a News Journal article five years ago?” I was in disbelief. I immediately got on my computer and, sure enough, quickly found the article from 2014. I was incredulous. I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll be damned. He’s right. I was asked about that project.”

I agree that in a typical brother-brother relationship, it would be a really big deal if your brother’s name appeared in a newspaper article, especially if the story involved a controversial real estate deal. I would also agree that owning an interest in a commercial real estate development project is significant. If you learned that a family member owned a part of a real estate project, you’d probably remember that for quite some time – perhaps indefinitely. But, as I attempted to explain before, most people do not have a brother like John (who btw happens to be an incredible father, a generous philanthropist, a great friend to all who know him, and one of the kindest, most giving men you will ever meet). This is what I said in my previous email:

My older brother is considered to be one of the best land-use attorneys in the state. As a result, his knowledge and talents are in high demand. Over his 30+ year career, he has literally been involved in thousands of land development projects on behalf of clients, and I understand, along the way, he has become involved in some projects personally as well. My brother does not share information with me about his clients or his personal investments, but I do occasionally hear things in the community or read things in the paper about projects that he’s representing. I have people ask me all the time, “Hey, did you know your brother is doing this _____ project in (insert name of town)?” Or, “Hey, I heard your brother was at a Board of Adjustment meeting on behalf of ______. What do you know about it?” I literally hear stuff like that dozens of times a year, and, 99 times out of 100, I have no clue what the person is talking about, and, honestly, I really don’t care because it’s none of my business.

The two articles about the Asbury Square project were written five years apart. Five Years. It’s fair to say that during that time, my brother represented hundreds of clients involving hundreds of real estate deals, development projects, land-use disputes, and a whole bunch of other nonsense that I don’t particularly care to know about or follow. It’s also fair to say that during those five years, I have fielded questions, read stories, or heard comments about dozens and dozens of those same real estate deals, development projects, and land-use disputes. Sure, if Asbury Square was the only big deal that John Paradee had ever been involved in during his career, chances are that I would have remembered it by name and/or approximate location five years later. But, considering the number of projects in southern Kent County that John has been involved in – just in the last 5 years – how could I reasonably be expected to know that a reporter was asking me about a particular project that I had previously been asked about five years earlier. Had I made that connection during the final week of the 2019 legislative session, I would have certainly told the leadership of the DETurf to find another sponsor because some people might perceive John’s involvement in Asbury Square as a conflict of interest. The same can also be said about John’s involvement with the DETurf board. Had I known about that; I also would not have agreed to take on task.

Response to Senator Paradee February 24, 2021

Your response emphasizes the long complex history which proceeded SB 178 stating that, “the entire effort was organized and run by Shelly Chechett and Bill Strickland of the DETurf.”  At that time your brother was also on the Board of DETurf.

Your rebuttal focuses on Senator Bonini’s involvement as well as the strong support of the bill by DETurf, the Levy Court, and the Kent County business community.  You also clarify that SB 178 was simply enabling legislation and that the actual tax would be enacted by the Levy Court which was more than willing to comply.

However, the issue is whether you had a potential family conflict of interest when you sponsored the bill in 2019.  It’s hard to understanding how the long history and the involvement of other legislators and members of the Kent County business community diminishes your potential family conflict of interest in any way?

You state that the News Journal story accused you of “creating a tax that would funnel thousands of dollars directly into the pockets of my brother.”  However, the article did not report the story that way and your statement would seem to be a straw man.

Your rebuttal is laced with complaints about the News Journal’s biased reporting stating that their articles omitted “facts and details that would have exonerated me”, but you don’t clarify what those “facts and details” are. There are two News Journal articles on the Asbury Square issue involving four different reporters.  Were all four of these reporters prejudiced against you?  Are there specific facts which were wrong?  Were you misquoted?

I find it somewhat incredible that following major controversies about your brother’s investment in Asbury Square in both 2014 and 2019, you still haven’t asked him about the extent of his financial interest, stating, “John owns some minority interest in at least one of the parcels.”  I find your lack of curiosity astounding.

Here’s a link to the Deed to the second 11 acre parcel which was acquired with the “landscam” discount on December 31, 2018.  JMER Properties LLC in which your brother is the sole principal owns 44% of that parcel.

I don’t have the deed to the original 10 acre Asbury Square parcel.  However, multiple letters and hearing notices related to that property identify only two partners, your brother and Jonny Nichols Nurseries LLC.  Jonny Nichols was also one of the minority partners on the second 11 acre parcel.  Your brother has been the active Asbury Square partner advocating for zoning variances and for the Frederica Interchange.

The combined parcels have been advertised at various times for $5 million and $6.5 million.  The overwhelming likelihood is that your brother has a multi-million-dollar stake in Asbury Square.

Here’s a link to a sales brochure for Asbury Square which states:

The property is located inside the Frederica town limits directly across Route 1 from DE Turf, Kent County’s new regional sports complex. DE Turf is the largest all-synthetic turf sports complex in the Mid-Atlantic. The sports facility will not offer on-site dormitory accommodations or provide many dining options which creates a significant demand for these services. With its close proximity to DE Turf, and the new interchange providing access to the sports complex, Asbury Square is perfectly positioned to accommodate hotels, restaurants and convenience/fuel users to service the increasing traffic related to both transient travelers and sports complex attendees.

There are five references to DE Turf or sports facility/complex in this brief paragraph.  Location is the primary factor in real estate development and it’s solely because of DE Turf that these 21 acres have a multi-million-dollar price tag.  Otherwise, as you point out, it’s just a big vacant lot.

SB 178 would have provided a major benefit for DETurf worth about $1 million annually in additional revenue.  This revenue was needed to enable DETurf to offer more competitive rates to sports teams attracting bigger crowds and more revenue.  That benefit is what motivated the DETurf Board, the Levy Court, and the Kent County business community to support the bill so enthusiastically.

So your brother stood to gain substantially from SB 178.  Your defense is that you were not aware of his investment in Asbury Square when you sponsored the bill in 2019.  Your credibility has been questioned because of the News Journal article in 2014 which reported you and your brother’s advocacy for moving the Fredericka Interchange up on DelDOT’s priority list.

“Trey Paradee, a Dover Democrat, said Friday that he didn’t know. The brothers hold differing views on land use and development, and don’t discuss such things, Trey Paradee said.

“That’s totally news to me,” Trey Paradee said. “I never had the feeling he’s tried to lobby me or influence me in any way.”

Trey Paradee was elected in 2012 – well after the sports complex was proposed. He sees it as a unique opportunity that would have a positive impact on the county. As far as his brother’s dealings, Trey Paradee said he was not aware of them and was not sure if it presented a conflict of interest.

“I’m totally taken off guard. I’d like to have more information. In some ways, I wish he had been forthcoming with me,” Trey Paradee said.”

You are quoted above denying knowledge of the Asbury Square development in 2014.  You made similar statements in 2019 disclaiming knowledge of Asbury Square.  In our current exchange, seven years after the 2014 article, you claim only the faintest knowledge of your brother’s Asbury Square investment stating, “John owns some minority interest in at least one of the parcels.”

Below is another quote from the 2019 article:

“The less I know, the better off I am,” Sen. Paradee said, when The News Journal offered to show him documents related to his brother’s development.”

Perhaps you see this as more biased reporting by the News Journal, but this “ignorance is grace” attitude is repeated multiple times in the justifications you have presented.  In my opinion as an ethics advocate, this approach is completely wrong.

You state that the number and scope of your brother’s real estate dealings is so extensive that you couldn’t be expected to keep track of them. Instead of tuning out John’s frenzied business dealings, you should have been paying attention.  As a Delaware Senator you have a responsibility to know about conflicts of interest for both you and your family. 

Our website is not the judge or jury in this situation.  We can’t know or prove what you remember about Asbury Square.  We are calling for an inquiry because after seven years of this controversy, we don’t know your brother’s ownership stake in Asbury Square, the full story of your apparently successful advocacy for the Frederika Interchange, how the “landscam” purchase was arranged for your brother’s property, or your sister’s potential role in obtaining the Governor’s signature for the original hotel tax bill.

That’s a lot of missing information and an inquiry is called for.  An inquiry could possibly benefit your family by clearing the air.