Fridley page 38

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 21, 1941]

Justice Department To Question R. Newton McDowell of Kansas City
Five Per Cent Commission Was Paid In Purchase Of 14,000-Acre Tract At Weldon Spring

            WASHINGTON, Feb. 21.—Fees received by R. Newton McDowell, Kansas City contractor, in connection with acquisition of land for the TNT plant being constructed near St. Charles, Mo., have been under investigation by the Department of Justice, the Post-Dispatch learned today.
            McDowell was advised Feb. 7, it was said at the Department of Justice, that an agent of the department would be in Kansas City to question him about the land purchases on which, under contract with the War Department, he received a fee of 5 per cent. Because had made previous arrangements to go to Newfoundland to bid on work there in connection with construction of one of the newly acquired defense bases, McDowell was unable to meet with Justice Department agents.
            He is expected to return to this country shortly, however, and will come at once to Washington to report on the purchase of the site in Charles County. Besides McDowell’s fee of 5 per cent on the total purchase price, a Kansas City title company was paid 1 1-2 per cent for proving title to the acreage acquired.
            Meanwhile, payments for land purchases at the St. Charles site have been held up, according to John J. O’Brien, a Justice Department official who has been put in charge of the real estate branch of the Quartermaster’s construction division. New appraisals are being made at the site, O’Brien said.
            Col. R. D. Valiant, until recently in charge of land acquisition for the War Department, said on Feb. 3 that all but 200 acres of the site had been taken over. He indicated that the matter was closed and there would be no investigation. This was before the Justice Department stepped in.
            Senator Bennett Champ Clark made vigorous protests against the prices paid for land at St. Charles and the fees paid to McDowell. He was later given assurances that in the future land would not be brought through private dealers on a commission basis. Clark was told by the War Department that either experts would be used or, where they were not available, an outright fee would be paid.
            John Nadler of Matson, George Dierker of St. Charles, and William Wehmeyer of Orchard Farm, are appraising some of the property in the TNT area for the Federal Government.
            Payment on 123 of the 268 pieces of optioned property has already been made, the last on February 7. It is estimated between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000 will be paid the land owners of the 16,000 acres in the area.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 22, 1941]

Weldon Springs Ordnance Plant Site Among 9 Investigated—Some Fees Reduced.

            WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (AP).—A searching undercover investigation of land prices charged the Government for defense projects was disclosed today in an announcement that for the second time fees of War Department land agents had been reduced.
            The Justice Department indicated the investigation centered on nine scattered tracts bought under pressure for speed for such purposes as sites for arms plants and army ordnance proving grounds.
            Commercial agents were employed by the Quartermaster General to obtain these tracts by direct purchase. It was the fees paid some of these agents that were reduced, with Norman M. Littell, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s lands division, contending that they were “exhorbitant.”
Some of Reduced Fees.
            Paul M. McCord, Indianapolis, land agent in the acquisition of some 60,000 acres in Southern Indiana for an artillery proving ground, agreed at a conference with officials to reduce his fees from 6½ to 3½ per cent.
            At the same time Willis N. Coval, president of the Union Title Co., Indianapolis, agreed to a flat fee of $50 as an abstract charge for each of some 600 tracts purchased, irrespective of size. Previous charges ranged upward to $820, it was stated.
            Earlier the fees and charges of agents buying land for an arms plant at Burlington, Ia., were reduced from 6½ to 3½ per cent for all expenses.
            The fees as well as prices paid for sites for the nine projects for which agents were employed have been under investigation for several weeks, Littell said, indicating that other downward revisions were in prospect.
            Included in the nine were an ordnance plant site at Weldon Springs, Mo., and a shell loading plant at Laporte, Ind., but Littell declined to disclose the full list.
3,980,000 Acres Being Bought.
            In the 12 months ending next June 30, the War Department is undertaking the purchase of 3,980,000 acres estimated to cost $47,260,000.
            The bulk of the land was obtained through condemnation or from the Interior or other Government departments, but the Quartermaster General’s office decided [?] purchase through agents [?] nine tracts. Undersecretary [?] P. Patterson has ordered a [?] ment of this arrangement [?] obtained in the future.
            Littell told reporters [?] War Department estimated [?] of the Indiana proving ground [?] at $3,000,000, of which [?] to have received about $195 [?] the contract revision, the [?] be at least halved, Littell [?] ed, aside from other saving [?] he estimated would run [?] up to $120,000 or more.