After spending much of yesterday attacking as “leftist” the news organization that published the story about the 2007 sale of his family pharmacy, Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) today released a fuller response and a letter from the buyer.
The new responses don’t address the key question of whether the pharmacy chain USA Drug paid an inflated price of $420,000 for the land and pharmacy building owned by Ross and his pharmacist wife, which was significantly more than the county’s $263,000 assessment and a price tag of $198,000 from an appraiser hired by ProPublica this year.
A letter from USA drug detailing the transaction with the contemporaneous closing statement on the sale of the business assets — not the real estate — was provided to the the Arkansas Times by Ross’ office. The assets were drugs on the shelf, fixtures, etc — and the closing statement breaks down 10 items adding up to a total assets price of $724,420.
What the USA Drug letter doesn’t include is any new information about the $420,000 sale of the land and pharmacy building. It says: “2. Land and Building. The land and the building were purchased for $420,000. A closing statement is attached.”
But the closing statement lays out the assets purchase details, nothing about the land and building.
Calls to USA Drug were not returned.
In a letter to the editor of Politico, which published the article, Ross has this to say about the real estate:
The premise of the reporter’s allegations focuses on the discrepancy between the assessed value of the property and the value at which the property was sold. It is important to note, as any real estate agent will tell you, that there is a major difference between an assessment and an appraisal and the two can never be compared on equal footing. ProPublica did have the property recently appraised. However, it is also important to know that an appraisal can be used for a lending decision up to a year after completion - even ProPublica’s appraisal had an expiration date of 2010. But, in today’s challenging real estate environment, a lender most likely will not even go over six months. Therefore, given the economic conditions have changed considerably since 2007 - especially in the real estate sector - one cannot compare a present-day appraisal to one conducted two years ago.
The basic point being: an appraisal done this year (the one that produced the $198,000 figure) doesn’t apply to a $420,000 sale made back in 2007. The problem is, as ProPublica reports, real estate prices in the tiny town of Prescott, Arkansas, haven’t changed much in recent years.
Ross’ office has not responded to requests for more information. And in his letter to Politico, Ross again smears ProPublica as some kind of outside advocacy group, which it clearly is not:
In the future, I would hope your news organization, Politico, would double-check its submissions from groups like ProPublica so as to avoid printing tabloid journalism and instead focus on presenting facts and substantive debate.
Ross adds: “My office cooperated fully with the reporter over a two-month period.” In fact, he and his wife, who still works at the pharmacy, declined to comment for the story.