Local News

Recruiter in Parton theater deal gets federal subpoena

Posted July 10, 2008

— Rick Watson, an industry recruiter instrumental in helping bring what once was the Randy Parton Theatre to Roanoke Rapids has been served with a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury, his attorney said Thursday.

Watson, former president and chief executive officer of the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission, orchestrated the deal for Roanoke Rapids to build a $21.5 million music theater off Interstate 95 that was meant to boost the city's struggling economy.

The subpoena gives no indication why Watson must appear, his attorney, Wade Smith, said.

Once the groundwork was set on the theater project, Watson left his economic development job to become the business partner of the theater's namesake, country singer Randy Parton.

A state audit of Watson's actions determined the move presented a conflict of interest, but Watson deflected the charge in a February 2008 interview with WRAL News.

"I never had any interest in Randy's company while I was at the Northeast Partnership," he said.

Watson said he had every intention of making money with Parton through promotion, performances and land deals, but the two split over business disagreements before the first show.

Last year, Roanoke Rapids stripped Parton of his management duties and slashed his salary after the theater failed to meet projected revenue and attendance numbers. Accusations that he misused funds and came to work intoxicated before a show led the city to cut ties with him.

Parton, Watson and several others were named in a lawsuit filed last month by the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, which alleges they lured the Roanoke Rapids into the troubled theater project

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

In a statement to WRAL News on Thursday, Parton's attorney, Nick Ellis, said his client denies anything improper when negotiating with the city about the theater.

"He and Roanoke Rapids reached a settlement concerning their contractual obligations, in which Roanoke Rapids paid Mr. Parton $750,000, and the parties completely released each other from all claims they had, including any claim relating to the theatre [sic]. As such, we do not believe there is any merit to this lawsuit."


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  • superman Jul 10, 2008

    Turn it into a super wal-mart and the people will come.

  • foetine Jul 10, 2008

    They really need to look into hiring an arsonist.

  • gnew46 Jul 10, 2008

    The Roanoke Rapids City Council should have done their due diligence before forking out taxpayer money for this deal. Don't blame Watson solely. You can't sell something unless you have a buyer.

  • iamforjustice Jul 10, 2008

    There hasn't been 1 good concert at this theatre yet. Nothing worth going to. Not one time has Alicia Keyes, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Ying Yang Twins or anyother good acts appeared there. No Earth Wind and Fire or Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson. No money makers have even been asked. Need a new promoter to bring in quality acts.

  • I like everybody Jul 10, 2008

    She said "it was his idea", but he said "no it won't, I only did it because you said","but he said that you said", "I only said that because you said......" If you think they're ever going to get to the bottom of this, I've got this country place off I-95 I want to tell you about, it's great, a sure thing......

  • FloydTurbo Jul 10, 2008

    Wade must need clients pretty bad to represent this character. Small time con man and scam artist .... not smart enough to be dangerous above the level of flimflamming the naive citizens of RR.

    Tar & Feathers for this yahoo!

  • jlh4jdj Jul 10, 2008

    I'm just excited life was kind of boring without the daily soaps. So what is the twist this week. I just tune in and it consumes me. So who shot JR this time?

  • Stevesteve Jul 10, 2008




  • ECO Jul 10, 2008

    I have passed by there several times and I see it could attract people driving by on the interstate. RR needs to keep it open and just go on or it may be the next Ghost Town..

  • bluebird1075 Jul 10, 2008

    Somebody needs to step up and take the blame for the mess in RR. I think the city council looked the other way just to get this place built. It's a shame, what started out as an exciting new deal has gone so sour. I wish it would get worked out. I would love to have a place closer than Raleigh to go to for a good country show or a comedy act. I would also love to have something closer than Kings Dominion to enjoy with my family. I think an amusement park was part of the deal too, wasn't it?