Carolina Journal News Reports
Conflicts Engulf Parton Project
Possible conflicts of interest surround Roanoke Rapids theater project
Jan. 7th, 2008
RALEIGH — Many of the individuals, agencies, and organizations that pushed the Randy Parton Theatre project were so intertwined that it became a minefield of potential conflicts. Here are some of the interconnections:
- Roanoke Rapids Mayor Drewery Beale served on the board of directors for the Northeast Partnership when his subordinates — Partnership CEO Watson and Partnership attorney Pearson — began working with Parton. On behalf of the city Beale signed the June 2005 agreement with Parton and his newly formed company Moonlight Bandit Productions. After the Partnership dissolved, then House Speaker Jim Black appointed Beale to the Commission board in Sept. 2006.
- Wake County attorney Ernest Pearson began billing Parton for “corporate formation and representation” legal work on or before January 2005. Pearson was also the attorney for the Northeast Commission/Partnership, the organization that recruited Parton to come to North Carolina. He was representing Parton in negotiations with Roanoke Rapids for a contract signed in June 2005. Pearson collected $65,000 in legal fees from a city payment to Moonlight Bandit in Sept. 2005. On or before March 2, 2006 he acquired an ownership interest in Moonlight Bandit and established himself as the registered agent. The Commission/Partnership organizations terminated Pearson as legal counsel on March 21, 2006.
- Former Commission/Partnership CEO Rick Watson, a state funded economic developer, traveled throughout Northeastern NC in 2004 and early 2005 with Parton looking for a community to host and finance a theater project. On or before Oct. 2005 Watson was directing funds advanced to Moonlight Bandit by Roanoke Rapids. He had an ownership interest in Moonlight Bandit on or before March 2, 2005. The Commission/Partnership terminated Watson on March 21, 2006.
- Manteo Developer Ray Hollowell served on the Northeast Commission when he signed a “binding letter of intent to serve as the key development partner” with Parton in “bringing high quality musical entertainment and affiliated mixed use entertainment district developments to northeastern North Carolina.” The agreement stipulates that Hollowell pay $50,000 to a company controlled by Parton and Pearson upon signing the document.
- Halifax County Tourism Director Lori Medlin served on the Northeast Commission while she pursued and then obtained control of $500,000 in state funds to market the Parton Theatre. Her husband Gary Medlin later became a contract employee of Moonlight Bandit. Medlin also used her public agency computer to solicit attendees for a June 2007 Richard Moore fundraising event in Halifax County.
- Randy Parton paid his daughters Tevor and Heidi Lou with public funds on or before August 2006. Parton frequently failed to distinguish between expenses for his company and expenses for the theater operation. In November 2007 he entered into a contract with an accounting firm to prepare his business income tax filings for the years 2006 and 2007. City officials took over that contract in November 2007 because they mistakenly believed it was a theater expense.
Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.