Local News

Parton theater lawsuit 'frivolous,' defendant says

Posted June 19, 2008

— A lawsuit alleging country music singer Randy Parton and others lured the city of Roanoke Rapids into a troubled theater project is frivolous and politically motivated, one of the defendants said Thursday.

"The fact that the city made a decision – or its elected officials made a decision – to do business or to finance the theater – I think that's irrelevant to me or Randy Parton," said Rick Watson, former president and chief executive officer of the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission.

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law – an anti-economic-incentives group funded partially by former conservative state lawmaker Art Pope – filed the suit Thursday. It claims Parton, Watson and others lured the city into an agreement to build the former Randy Parton Theatre so that they could personally profit at taxpayers' expense.

The complaint alleges they made false statements, withheld material facts, breached their fiduciary duties to taxpayers and ignored substantial conflicts of interest.

The city, which issued $21.5 million in bonds to pay for the theater project, is not named in the suit. It does have the option to join in the suit, however.

"I don't know what the definition of 'lure' is, but what we did was go to several communities and ask them if they'd be interested in a venue of this nature," Watson said. "We were concentrating on private developers to form a partnership with Parton and create an entertainment venue."

NCICL is representing Jim Garrett, a Roanoke Rapids resident and a long-time critic of the theater project. It was billed as a way to help boost the city's struggling economy, but critics say it has only ended up costing the city.

“The City of Roanoke Rapids was sold on the concept of the theater as a way to bring new jobs and revitalization to their struggling town,” said Jeanette Doran, NCICL's senior staff attorney. "But all the people got was a $21.5 million debt that they are going to have to repay.”

The city has spent about $739,000 more than it has brought in since the 1,500-seat facility, now called The Roanoke Rapids Theatre, opened in 2006. Part of the loss comes from a $547,000 buyout of Parton's management contract after the city cut ties with him in December.

Roanoke Rapids leaders have considered a 5-cent increase in the property tax rate to help make up for the loss.

"As a taxpayer of Roanoke Rapids, I'm pretty mad," Garrett said at a news conference Thursday. "I think that all of the taxpayers of our city have been taken advantage of."


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  • Kidw4legs stops in Jun 20, 2008

    When will some of you realize that the CITIZENS of Roanoke Rapids did not have the opportunity to vote on the Parton Theater deal?
    Had they had the chance, it's quite likely that the vast majority would have voted it down.

    Put the blame, and the demeaning comments, where they belong... on Watson, Dunlow, Beale, et al. It's just ignorant and mean-spirited to continue to beat up on people who are innocent of the acts in question.

  • FloydTurbo Jun 19, 2008

    What Watson and his goofy side-kick pulled off in RR was "The Music Man" without trombones and an snappy overture.

    Yes, there were duplicious politicos involved. Take your pick of several prominent ones. As for any recourse for the gullible citizens of RR ..... I doubt it. They bought in to the con. There is a caveat emptor factor in such cases. They envisioned the best case scenarion ("Branson of The Carolinas" - YEE HAA!) and did not run a proper due diligence on Watson.

    Again .... allow the citizenry to tar & feathers the primary perps and any of their associates they can root out.

    One would think other communities will take note and be wary .... history says they won't. "..... one born every minute."

  • howdiditgettothis Jun 19, 2008

    Get over it! Nobody forced anyone into anything.

    It was a bad business venture and this money grubbing PAC committee should have been involved much sooner if they thought this was a bad idea.

    Vote out the ones who dispersed the money.

    Not much else can be done to ruin the reputation of Randy Parton, whether or not he is the crook many of you say he is.

    Bottom line: You can't get blood from a turnip.

  • bs101fly Jun 19, 2008

    good luck getting money out of a 2 bit hack singer who NEVER had a hit! HE DOESN'T HAVE ANY MONEY!!!!!!

    You'll figure that out though.

    After he sues you guys for breaking the contract!

  • Bass Pro 3 Jun 19, 2008

    You are so right FloydTurbo......I have known RW since the early 1970s, and he would do anything (or anybody) to make another dollar bill. But if he and Parton were looking for private developers with capital for the venture, how was Roanoke Rapids lured into the trap???

  • GoHeels88 Jun 19, 2008

    Go Roanoke Rapids!

  • blackdog Jun 19, 2008

    ...they should move it to Soul City....

  • SubwayScoundrel Jun 19, 2008

    another PR incident for Art Pope to raise a useless lawsuit so he can get wackos to give him money. Same people who filed a lawsuit to stop the lottery and the courts told them to go away. Was only a part of the big plan to get that judge guy to become governer. Same group on other lawsuits.

  • foetine Jun 19, 2008

    Turn it into a Starbucks

  • FloydTurbo Jun 19, 2008

    If you have ever met Watson or Parton (I Have) you would realize that neither one can spell credibility or integrity.

    They are both two-bit con men straight out of a Damon Runyon novel.

    Tar and feather both of'em.