A Lesson in 16th Second Leases-Paul Gallo

As the first major deadline clears in the 2009 Legislative Session, our attention is now focused on surviving Bills. Watch HB 881 authored by Rep. Joe Warren from Mount Olive.

To be honest with you, every time Mount Olive comes up in the news I want a Martini, or two…or three. Mount Olive is where the “Hispanic Hilton” is located. I uncovered this USDA gem several years ago and we’ve discussed it on the air numerous times. I believe this was during the tenure of Nick Walters who was appointed in 2001 and indicted in 2008.

From what I understand, the “Hispanic Hilton” is a low cost or no cost apartment complex mostly for the area’s chicken processing workers, many of them Hispanic. At that time there were two of these “test sites” done in the USA. These were touted as the new model of expanding Socialism by even providing an “on site” office to sign up for government handouts from transportation, medical, child care, etc. With this new “entitlement model”, the poor would not even have to walk across the street to maximize government services.

But this time the city of Mount Olive jumps front and center because of Mount Olive’s Representative Joe Warren. He has authored HB 881 (Sixteenth section lands; allow agricultural lands to be reclassified or re-leased again in final year of term or re-lease.) From reading the Bill, it appears that Rep. Warren wants the law to be changed so that current leaseholders can extend their leases. In other records obtained, I’ve learned that Joe Warren (the author of the Bill that has been submitted to Education), has several 16th section land leases himself! I’ve contacted Representative Warren but he has not returned my call.

In doing more research, I’ve learned that Warren is not the only legislator to hold 16th Section leases. Currently, there’s no law that prohibits what could be interpreted as a possible conflict of interest. Maybe the greater problem is those who are making a profit from these leases should recuse themselves from voting on this Bill, much less author legislation to extent control of those leases.

In dealing with matters of ethics and the state legislators, haven’t we crossed this bridge before?

Paul Gallo
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