Something we can all be proud of- not
The public will be thrilled to know it is now the “proud owner of the structures formerly owned by Jack Dreyfus at Zephyr Cove.”
That cheerful little message came via a U.S. Forest Service press release sent to the Tahoe Daily Tribune on Sunday.
If memory serves, the public already bought the Dreyfus estate once. But the price tag was only $38 million that time around.
Now the price has gone up $575,000, which the Forest Service paid to Park Cattle, the company that has tied up access to the 46-acre parcel for five years.
During that time, Park Cattle did or did not actually use the 10,000-square-foot mansion and the caretaker’s cottage, depending on who one talks to. However, Park Cattle did agree to hand over $70,000 to the Forest Service for rent during its occupancy or non-occupancy, again depending on who one talks to.
But that’s always been the problem with the Dreyfus deal. The truth of why it cost taxpayers $38 million dollars for a parcel of property it has had only marginal, if any, access to, has been a matter of who one talked to.
According to the Forest Service, it was all just a huge clerical error. The Forest Service claims one inexperienced bureaucrat in the Lake Tahoe office negotiated a deal bigger than he was. And he acted alone.
Or at least that’s what the lack of documentation would indicate.
It’s been five years, and the Forest Service either can’t find or wouldn’t release critical documents that indicate the lone, inexperienced Lake Tahoe bureaucrat didn’t act in a vacuum.
The Forest Service brass is struck dumb as well. Anyone who worked the Dreyfus deal has either retired with no forwarding address or has taken a job in another state.
When really pushed, the few Forest Service employees who knew what happened and would talk privately about it, blamed the Bureau of Land Management office out of Reno.
The original deal involved BLM because BLM had the 1,350 acres of prime land in Las Vegas to swap with Olympic Group, original owner of the Dreyfus estate. It was Olympic that passed on water-tight access rights for the Dreyfus mansion and grounds to Park Cattle for $300,000 and a couple of Edgewood Country Club memberships.
According to the very paranoid Forest Service employees willing to talk off the record, it was BLM that insisted the Forest Service not raze the buildings, keeping them instead for an exclusive “bed and breakfast.”
However, the BLM people responsible also seem to have taken “better” jobs elsewhere. When reached at those other jobs, they were too busy or couldn’t really remember exactly what happened in Tahoe.
About the only bureaucrat who was publicly forthcoming about Dreyfus estate deal was Juan Palma, now the head of the Tahoe Regional Planning Authority. His version paints a bureaucratic maelstrom with everyone stirring the tempest but no one taking responsibility for the storm.
What really happened will never become public.
But what seems to have happened in the largest land exchange in the Forest Service history is not so mysterious.
A couple of people in the private sector saw an opportunity to outwit the Forest Service and make some serious money in the meantime.
The Forest Service and BLM had no idea what the other was doing, nor did they seem to much care until the politicians got involved.
But local, state and national Nevada politicians – who loudly endorsed keeping the Dreyfus buildings until specific questions were asked about the deal- just couldn’t remember details or even return phone calls.
After all, politicos can’t be expected to know the details of every land deal or the names of every political contributor.
So, according to the Forest Service press release, the public is now the proud owners of a 10,000-square-foot mansion and a caretaker’s cottage, as well as the 46 acres of lakefront property that it already owned but was discouraged by padlocked gate from visiting. The public is indeed proud. Thanks, Forest Service.
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