Bank could go after Chip Rogers over foreclosed motel



ATLANTA - What used to be the Oglethorpe Inn sits off of Interstate 75 in Gordon County. It's an eyesore that recently sold in foreclosure for pennies on the dollar.

As real estate investors, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and Rep. Tom Graves used to own the motel.

They thought they were free of it, after selling the motel in November 2009 to John Edens, a former associate Rogers knew from when he worked in the sports handicapping industry.

"You essentially gave him the motel?" investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer asked Rogers in an interview in May.

"No, I wouldn't say that," he replied, "We had a contract drawn up by an attorney."

The sales agreement listed a price of $10,000, but Rogers wasn't forthcoming with details during the May interview.

"I sold my interest to [Edens], for a future payment at a later date. The contract was drawn up and agreed to," said Rogers. When Fleischer asked how much Edens paid him for the motel, Rogers replied, "I cannot discuss any private contractual agreements."

After the sale, the bank sued Rogers and Graves, saying they still owed more than $2 million for the defaulted note. They indicated Edens had assumed the debt.

In May, Fleischer asked Rogers if they essentially saddled Edens with a million-dollar debt on the property.

"Absolutely not," replied Rogers, "At the time I sold my interest and shares in the company, the only debt was the note and the note was completely paid for. He was supposed to refinance the note, and he didn't refinance the note. We reached an agreement on that and all that's been settled."

The suit was settled, confidentially. But now the bank has foreclosed on the motel, for just $370,000, a fraction of the loan amount.

Channel 2 Action News obtained a copy of a Gordon County judge's order approving the foreclosure, which names the congressman and the senator as existing parties, meaning the bank could go after them for any of the debt that isn't paid.

The order reads the bank "may pursue a deficiency judgment against the respondents" -- Rogers and Graves -- for the money from their loan.

Attorney Simon Bloom, who represents the pair, told Fleischer they do not expect the bank to take any further action against them, because they are already upholding their obligations from that confidential settlement.

In court records prior to the settlement, he argued the Bartow County Bank was at fault for issuing the $2 million loan, knowing the legislators could not cover the debt for which they signed personal guarantees. The bank has since failed.

An attorney for Hamilton State Bank, which took over, did not return calls.