County Repayment

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 12, 2009

Insurer set to repay county for policy that aided Rolando

By Billy Davis

Panola County government will receive reimbursement for paying the insurance premium on the privately-owned Rolando Curtis Foods plant in Crenshaw.

Whitten Insurance Co. president David Woods, reached by The Panolian this week, said insurer Zurick is returning payments from the previous two fiscal years and part of the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

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Woods said he did not know the exact amount of the reimbursement, known as a “return premium,” because Zurick is still searching its records.

County Administrator Kelley Magee mentioned the insurance payments, but only in passing, at a county supervisors’ board meeting Monday.

Board discussion centered mostly on demanding that Rolando CEO Roland Butler explain how he has spent the $1.4 million he borrowed, using the plant as collateral.

A deed of trust, recorded in the Panola chancery clerk’s office, shows Butler took out a six-month loan for $14 million from Dill Ski Aspen, LLC.

A release from the company, which would show Butler repaid the money, has never been recorded.

Past attempts by The Panolian to locate a firm known as Dill Ski Aspen, LLC have been unsuccessful.

Panola County owned the empty Crenshaw plant and adjoining acreage in June 2006 when supervisors gave it to Butler in exchange for a promise of assembly line jobs. Those jobs have never materialized, however, three years after he received the property.  

Magee, armed with a list of county-insured property, said she discovered the error when she was viewing the properties last September. She had been hired the month before to replace retiring administrator David Chandler.

“After I discovered it, I was told that it had been removed in 2008 but it was not,” she told The Panolian.

The property was finally dropped from the county in January, she said.

Chandler and late Supervisor Robert Avant had pressed for the transfer, saying the gamble could benefit the jobless community in and around Crenshaw.

Chandler now resides in Grenada but has told The Panolian he made payment arrangements for Butler to purchase his former Edgarwood subdivision home in Batesville.

An Internet search shows that Butler is listed as living at the Edgarwood home.

Butler was reached for comment by The Panolian Thursday but told a reporter he was in a business meeting and would return the call. He had not returned the phone call by press time Thursday.

Woods, when asked who is at fault for a lack of oversight, said, “I have no idea.”

“We rely on the county to get with us when those changes are made,” he said.

 “There never was a question that Zurick would return the money if the county shows proof that the property had been transferred,” he added.