A former state lawmaker representing Dawson County and a small portion of northeast Forsyth County and other officials with a south Forsyth County business were among six recently subpoenaed by a U.S. Senate committee.
Per a news release from the United States Senate Committee on Finance, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued the subpoenas “for documents in their bipartisan probe of syndicated conservation-easement transactions” to Matthew Campbell, Robert McCullough, Matt Ornstein, Mark Pickett, Frank Schuler and Eugene “Chip” Pearson, who served as District 51 state Senator from 2005 to 2011.
A conservation agreement is an agreement between the property owner and a trust or government agency that allows for a tax reduction but permanently limits the rights of what can be built on the land with an aim of preserving land.
In a joint statement, Grassley and Wyden said that the easements are important for promoting “land conservation, but some of them in recent years may have allowed some taxpayers to profit from gaming the law — depriving the government of billions in revenue.”
“As we’ve both said all along, conservation easements have very legitimate purposes. We need to protect those purposes and protect the American taxpayer. If a handful of folks can game the system for profit, then we’re all left holding the bag. We expect fulsome cooperation with our investigation, and it’s unfortunate we’ve had to resort to compulsory process. Ultimately, when Congress makes an inquiry, it needs to be answered. It’s not optional,” they said in the statement.
The committee launched a probe looking into the conservation tax benefit abuse, citing findings from the Bookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., which found the easements “cost the federal government more than $3 billion in 2014 alone.”
The six who were issued subpoenas were among 14 individuals who received letters seeking documents and information “from individuals who appear to be associated with these investor groups that might have unfairly profited from conservation easements.”
In information from Bookings, Pearson is tied to Evrsource Capital, located at 6435 Shiloh Road, Suite 100 in Alpharetta. The company’s website lists Pearson as co-founder and managing partner, Campbell as founder and manager of acquisitions and marketing and Pickett as cofounder and chief financial officer.
In letters sent from the committee in March, Pearson, Campbell and Pickett were asked about information for the same nine companies. None of the three could be reached for comment.
As a member of the state Senate, Pearson served as chairman of the economic development committee, vice chairman of the transportation committee and as a member of the administrative affairs, appropriations, assignments, banking and financial institutions, insurance and labor, rules and special judiciary committees.
In addition to northeast Forsyth and Dawson, District 51 represents Fannin, Union, Gilmer, Lumpkin, White and parts of Pickens counties.