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1998-12-08
Oakland, MD. Wal-Mart's Oath of Confidentiality

Wal-Mart is like a cheap pair of underwear -- they keep creeping up on you. Take the case of Oakland, MD. Reports on a local radio station, WKHJ, broke the story that Wal-Mart had an option to purchase land near Maryland Highway and Weber Road. The landowner, Russell Sines, was mum about the project. "I have an oath of confidentiality," he told The Republican News, "that my client, a developer -- not Wal-Mart itself -- has required me to sign regarding that property." The developer, Wyatt Development of Aiken, South Carolina, reportedly asked Sines not to break his vow of silence -- but Sines said his vow was not made to Wal-Mart directly. That was as clear an implication of Wal-Mart as one could expect. When contacted by the media, Wal-Mart was equally coy and transparent at the same time. Daphne Davis, a Wal-Mart community affairs employee, said: "I've checked into your area. We don't have any plans for an Oakland-area store that I can locate at this point." But then she went on to add: "There's a lot of preplanning and study that goes into the process before we can announce that we're bringing a Wal-Mart store to serve your community." Wal-Mart told the Republican they would "check on the status of land transactions and call you back, but we've haven't been able to locate anything like that so far." So while Wal-Mart keeps searching for their own stores, residents in Oakland are growing increasingly upset about the project. The land in question is apparently just over the Oakland town line in Garrett County, and while Wal-Mart has been typically covert in its transactions, the Mayor of Oakland has made his feelings no secret. "I support a Wal-Mart for the Weber Road property," said Mayor Asa McCain, "because it would increase our town revenues." (Based on what study, Mr.Mayor?) The Mayor then conditioned his support by saying: "but before construction would begin, they (Wal-Mart) would have to sign an agreement agreeing to be annexed after construction in order to receive our town's water and sewer services." The site currently is not connected to town water and sewer. The Mayor noted that Wal-Mart would have to agree to be annexed into Oakland "without asking us for any special concessions" in order to keep the Mayor's support. The annexation process is somewhat cumbersome, and requires at least three months, giving Oakland residents besides the Mayor a chance to make their opinions known. Under the Garrett County plan, the Sines land that Wal-Mart secretly covets is predominately classified as residential.

What you can do: Citizen groups frequently ask if it is standard operating procedure for Wal-Mart to deny their interest in a community. The Oakland story of an "oath of confidentiality" should answer that question. Wal-Mart frequently denies press reports that they are coming, saying we have "no plans at this point in time," emphasizing the last three words.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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