Politics Obstruct Civil War Damage Case Against Developer
On July 11, 2001 a National Park Service (NPS) ranger discovered that an employee of Fawn Lake, a real estate development in Fredericksburg, Virginia, damaged approximately a half acre (24,000 sq. ft.) of Confederate earthworks on Longstreet Drive in the Wilderness Battlefield portion of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Fawn Lake is a golf-course community of 1,400 luxury condominiums, ranging from $700,000 to $1.4 million, whose website touts that “the land surrounding Fawn Lake is rich in Civil War history.” It is a project of NTS Development Company, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, whose President and CEO is Brian Lavin, a campaign contributor to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Majority Whip.
Two years earlier, in July 1999, NTS had destroyed 100 feet of Confederate earthworks. Despite the intervention of Sen. McConnell, NTS paid $60,000 in a settlement of a $96,000 assessment brought by the Park Service. For the more serious repeat violation in 2001, NPS asked for a considerably bigger fine.
This time around, however, Sen. McConnell had an inside ally, NPS Deputy Director Don Murphy, who lives in Fawn Lake and is a member of its homeowner’s association. Staff from Sen. McConnell’s office contacted the NPS Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs, headed by a Bush political appointee named Jeff Taylor. In a series of meetings and phone conversations, McConnell’s staff, Murphy, Taylor and lawyers for NTS focused on how to reduce, or possibly waive, the monetary damages.
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