Legal Magazine

Rollins Family's Mega Bucks Buy Southern Clout That Can Make A Proposed Highway Change Course

Posted on the 24 June 2013 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

Rollins Family's Mega Bucks Buy Southern Clout That Can Make A Proposed Highway Change Course

Rollins Ranch Cartersville

Anyone who doubts that one of the South's wealthiest families could manipulate the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case in Shelby County, Alabama, should consider recent transportation news out of Georgia.

The Rollins clan, from its twin bases in Atlanta and Delaware, has made billions from Orkin Pest Control, Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment, Rollins Jamaica Ltd, and associated enterprises. For roughly three decades, the family has been fighting the proposed route for a highway between Atlanta and Rome, Georgia. Based on recent news reports, it looks like Rollins clout will seize the day.

That means this family has enough clout to make a highway change its course. Is there any doubt that the family is capable of manipulating a court case so that Ted Rollins could launch a monstrous cheat job on his ex wife, Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins, and their two daughters, Sarah and Emma. Probably with the help of his Alabama-based corporate law firm, Bradley Arant, Ted Rollins somehow managed to receive an unlawful divorce judgment that has left Ms. Rollins and the couple's daughters on and off food stamps for several years.  

Officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) know what it's like to get into a battle of legal hardball with the Rollins family. DOT officials have said for years that the best route for the U.S. 411 connector would pass through the Rollins family's 1,800-acre ranch near Cartersville, Georgia. From a 2010 news report on the controversy:

At issue is a struggle between a family with deep pockets and philanthropic ties to the community — Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health honors the family’s contributions — and a state agency with the power to condemn even wealthy citizens’ land if it serves a public purpose. 
Georgia Department of Transportation officials say they have chosen the right route for the project after thorough financial, traffic and environmental studies involving extensive public input. 
“I believe that’s the most engineered, studied piece of land in the state of Georgia,” said David Doss, who represents Rome and Cartersville on the State Transportation Board. “The process has been followed to the letter of the law.”

But a new report, dated June 14, 2013, says the Rollins family likely will get the highway route that it prefers, one that bypasses its property:

The Rollins family did just about everything it could do to block a new road linking Interstate 75 to Rome and running just south of the family's vacation home and prized fishing lake. 
And on Thursday the effort by the prominent Georgia clan -- which was joined by environmentalists and other nearby residents -- appeared to pay off. Gov. Nathan Deal told Rome lawmakers that building the road through Rollins' land would be tremendously costly and that the state will explore alternatives. 
He also vented at the Rollins' monumental efforts, which he said were "employed to delay and ultimately divert the course of the project." 
The final decision is up to the Georgia Department of Transportation, which said it is still evaluating options. But Deal's comments mean the direct route to I-75 that Rome and its 100,000 residents have long sought is mired in deeper uncertainty.

The bottom line? The general public probably will have to travel an indirect route so that the Rollins family can get its way. From the recent report:

The land would probably already have a road running through it if it were owned by anybody else. But the Rollins clan, which controls a multibillion-dollar pest control business that includes Orkin, has waged one of the most aggressive road-blocking campaigns in state history. 
The family hired lawyers, strategists, engineers and scientists who lobbied to prevent highway construction on the land. Biologists contended it would endanger rare birds and wildlife. Engineers harped on potential design flaws. Attorneys persuaded officials to turn a chunk of the property into a state-recognized wilderness. And preservationists convinced the federal government to declare a nearby mine as a historic landscape called Dobbins Mountain Mining Landscape. 
The latter was a key development. Deal's letter came after the Federal Highway Administration concluded that any road built near the abandoned manganese mine, which dates to the 1860s, would have an "adverse effect" on the site and urged engineers to show whether there's a better alternative.

Published reports indicate the Rollins family leans heavily Republican, with little interest in environmental or preservation issues. But it probably will take advantage of an abandoned manganese mine to win a 30-year battle over a highway project. Along the way, attorneys for the Rollins clan helped get an area planned for the GDOT route declared a wildlife refuge.

It's enough to make you think these folks are left-wing enviros. But that hardly is the case. One of their many business interests, via a company called RPC Inc. (former Rollins Energy Services), is hydraulic fracturing, better known as "fracking" for natural gas. In fact, RPC was among several energy firms, including Halliburton Co., that apparently violated U.S. law by using fracking fluids that included diesel fuel without a permit. From a 2011 Fox News report:

The largest users of fluid containing diesel fuel cited by the lawmakers were BJ Services, Halliburton, RPC, Inc. (RES), and Sanjel Corporation. Those companies did not respond to requests for comment. 
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires "fracking" companies to obtain water-quality permits when they are injecting fluids underground, but the lawmakers said that EPA has issued no permits authorizing the use of diesel fuel in those wells. No companies have applied for such permits, they said.

If the Rollinses aren't enviros, what are they? Well, they certainly are big-time landowners. They have a Web site devoted to their ranches throughout the South. Here is the Web page for Rollins Ranch Cartersville, which is at the heart of the highway controversy. The family also has massive ranches near Okeechobee, Florida (2); Voor Jaar, Florida; Griffith, Florida; Ringgold, Georgia; and Lagarto, Texas.

According to Sherry Rollins, the Rollins family is the second largest land owner in the South, behind only Ted Turner.

Is it any wonder that Ms. Rollins and her daughters got cheated in an Alabama divorce case against Ted Rollins and his family's massive treasure chest. Compared to making a highway move, that divorce cheat job must have been a piece of cake for the family that is supposed to keep your home safe from roaches. 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog