Judge reopens bankruptcy filing by Deal's daughter, son-in-law

A U.S. bankruptcy judge has ordered the reopening of a 2009 bankruptcy filing by Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal’s daughter and son-in-law.

The bankruptcy stems from a failed sporting goods business started by Carrie Deal Wilder and her husband, Clint Wilder, that Deal invested in and left him with $2.1 million in debts.

A U.S. bankruptcy trustee sought to reopen the Wilders’ case after it was revealed that Clint Wilder was not eligible for a discharge of his debts, including those from the sporting goods store, because he did not divulge a prior bankruptcy in 2001.

Debtors must wait at least eight years between bankruptcies to have their debts discharged under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code.

Clint Wilder’s first bankruptcy, filed in November 2001, was within the eight-year window, preventing discharge.

Wilder filed for the second bankruptcy in July 2009 and signed under penalty of perjury that he had not had a previous bankruptcy within the previous eight years.

The reopening of the filing was reported Tuesday by The Fulton Daily Report.

Deal and his wife, Sandra, should have been mentioned as creditors or guarantors on the loans for the business, Wilder Outdoors Inc. The Deal campaign said the Wilders left them off in error.

“[The Wilders] are not public figures, they are not running for office,” Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Deal, said Tuesday. “This will not affect Nathan Deal or this campaign.”

Deal has pledged to pay off the debt related to the business and is in the process of liquidating his IRA to cover a portion of the obligation.

Also Tuesday, questions arose about Deal’s latest financial disclosure.

Deal might not have followed state guidelines for valuing certain properties in the amended financial disclosure for 2009 that he filed Sept. 23 with the State Ethics Commission.

The disclosure might reflect fair-market values, but they do not appear to conform with state guidelines.

The Sept. 23 disclosure, filed seven days after a previous amended disclosure, came after scrutiny about turmoil in his personal finances arose and certain assets and liabilities appeared to be omitted from earlier reports.

In the Sept. 23 disclosure, Deal’s reported net worth grew nearly 40 percent to $2.86 million. The amendment included substantial increases in both assets and liabilities related to a Gainesville-based salvage business Deal owns with a partner.

Stacey Kalberman, executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission, commenting about disclosures in general and not specifically about Deal’s, said state election law requires candidates to value their real estate holdings based on the tax assessor’s appraised value used to levy property taxes.

The commission did not state an opinion about Deal’s disclosure, and an opinion would not have an effect on the market value of Deal’s properties.

Jimmy Allen, a forensic accountant hired by the Deal campaign, said the values reported on Deal’s Sept. 23 disclosure accurately reflect his client’s net worth. Using county tax records instead of bank appraisals, he said, would unfairly reduce Deal’s wealth because it wouldn’t reflect true market value.

A commercial property in Metter, the site of Deal’s Gainesville auto salvage business, a cabin in Habersham County and the Wilder Outdoors site are listed at market value in the Sept. 23 disclosure, far exceeding their tax values.

Allen said Deal is solvent and can repay debts related to the failed sporting goods business.

Rick Thompson, a former head of the State Ethics Commission, who worked with Allen on the latest disclosure, said state law is vague on the issue.

Code requires candidates to use value for property tax purposes on an annual “short form,” but it isn’t clear how property is to be valued in the longer form candidates fill out during election years.

Kalberman, of the State Ethics Commission, said the law is clear.

“It doesn’t make sense to me you would use one valuation on one portion of the form and another on another part,” Kalberman said.

A spokesman for Democratic candidate Roy Barnes said he used the most recent tax appraiser’s appraised value in his report.