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    Developer seeking tax break gave $45K to DeKalb political races

     

    The developer asking DeKalb County for a controversial $52 million tax break dumped $45,800 into the 2008 political campaigns of the officials who may make the call.

    The buzz in DeKalb has centered on nearly $20,000 in donations by The Sembler Co., its executives and family members, to school board member Gene Walker.

    Walker, who won a special election in November, also chairs the DeKalb County Development Authority, which is considering Sembler’s request for tax abatements. The developer is seeking a 20-year exemption from property taxes on part of its Town Brookhaven mixed-use project under construction on Peachtree Road next to Oglethorpe University.

    Sembler interests gave $10,000 to Walker’s campaign on Sept. 27 and another $8,000 on Nov. 19, campaign records show. Daniel M. McRae, the bond lawyer who handled Sembler’s request for an earlier tax break last year, also donated $1,200 to Walker’s campaign fund on Nov. 19.

    The development authority can grant Sembler’s tax break without outside approval. But members of the County Commission and Board of Education, whose tax bases would be affected, are applying pressure for the authority to back off unless they endorse the abatement.

    Records show DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis’s campaign received another $19,500 from Sembler interests. They were early backers of Ellis’s CEO bid, kicking in $5,000 in July and August 2007.

    Campaign records show Sembler interests also gave $4,600 to the 2008 campaign of Commissioner Elaine Boyer and $2,500 to Commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton.

    Boyer issued a strong statement opposing Sembler’s request this week.

    Sembler also gave $20,000 in 2007 to a booster club founded by Boyer’s husband at Lakeside High School, where the couple’s two daughters were on the cheerleading squads. The booster club severed ties with the school last fall.

     

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