Larry O’Neal would probably prefer to be remembered for anything other than a tax break seemingly engineered specifically for then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, a client of O’Neal’s law practice. Nevertheless, O’Neal is best known for authoring the 2005 bill that allowed his fellow Houston Countian to retroactively shelter capital gains by reinvesting the money in property in Florida. Perdue, who thus saved about $100,000 in taxes, said he signed the bill into law without realizing it would apply to him. IRS auditors later investigated and exonerated O’Neal, he said in a 2009 email to House Republicans. Neither Perdue nor O’Neal released IRS documents or correspondence that would back up that assertion. A 2007 ethics complaint about O’Neal’s conduct went nowhere.
O’Neal went into business with another Sonny from Houston County, former state Rep. Roy “Sonny” Watson Jr., in 2001 when they formed SONLAR LLC. In 2005, Sonlar bought a 61-unit assisted-living facility at auction for $2.5 million after the previous owner defaulted on revenue bonds issued by the Houston County Development Authority. SONLAR sold the property in August 2012 for $5.1 million.