News: CJ Exclusives

More Secrets at Parton Theatre

Quarterly financial statements called 'trade secrets,' kept from public

Roanoke Rapids City Manager Phyllis Lee refused Monday to release a Randy Parton Theatre quarterly financial statement that she had received from Randy Parton’s production company.

The city borrowed $21.5 million to build and launch the theater project and it retains title to the property. The theater was completed in March and leased to Moonlight Bandit Productions, Parton’s company.

Lee told Carolina Journal Monday that the financial statement was marked “Proprietary and Confidential.” North Carolina’s public records laws require most records in possession of public officials to be disclosed upon request.

Lee also issued to CJ the following statement: “The City of Roanoke Rapids received the quarterly financial statements from Moonlight Bandit Productions, LLC as required in the Economic Development Agreement. These financial statements are confidential information as defined by GS 132-1.2 and therefore release of this information to the public is not authorized. The City will continue to provide information that can be disclosed under the public records law.”

The General Statute cited by Lee states that public agencies are not required to release information a public contractor considers a “trade secret.”

N.C. Press Association legal counsel Amanda Martin told CJ that she disagrees with the city’s position. “The quarterly financial statement on the theater’s operation cannot be considered a trade secret of Parton’s company,” she said.

In April, on the advice of the city attorney, Lee initially refused to release to CJ the economic development agreement between Moonlight Bandit, the city, and private developers.

Days later, after consulting with David Lawrence, a municipal government expert with the UNC Institute of Government, she released the document. The document showed that Parton was to receive an annual $1.5 million “artist fee,” plus housing and a vehicle.

According to the agreement with the city, Moonlight Bandit has almost total control of theater operations and is responsible for making monthly payments to cover the city’s loan on the project.

Moonlight Bandit’s specific obligations in the agreement are relatively few. They include cooperating with the city and the developer, procuring professional music and entertainment artists, and producing performances.

The agreement does require Moonlight Bandit to deliver quarterly financial statements to the city 15 days after the end of each quarter. The most recent statement was due July 15.

The city is planning for ticket sales and other theater revenues to raise enough funds to pay expenses, including Parton’s $1.5 million annual fee and the monthly debt service on the $21.5 million. If those funds are not enough, the city will have to use local sales or property taxes.

Local officials expect the 35,000-square-foot, 1,500-seat theater to be the anchor of the 1,000-acre Carolina Crossroads entertainment and retail development, off Interstate 95 south of Roanoke Rapids.

The theater’s first show featuring Parton and his newly formed band, The Moonlight Bandits, is scheduled for Thursday night. A schedule posted on rptheatre.com indicates his shows will run Wednesdays through Saturdays for the remainder of the year, but no other acts are listed.

Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.