Meridian Star

March 9, 2013

Jennings still in lawsuit with city over grant funding

By Terri Ferguson Smith /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     A long-standing lawsuit with the city of Meridian has not deterred one man from getting into city politics.

    Randle Jennings, who according to court records, owes the city some $18,000 for funding he received for a youth program that never got off the ground, announced on Friday that he is running for mayor.

    Asked about the status of the lawsuit, Jennings said he didn't know.

    "I made my portion of the agreement that I was told to make and that was it. I haven't heard from (Judge) Coleman, I haven't heard from the city, I haven't heard from anyone. I retained my lawyer and he said he hasn't heard anything," Jennings said on Friday.

    The $12,500 grant in 2005 was to fund an after-school youth program, but it never materialized and the city sued Jennings in County Court to get the money back.

    Jennings has already paid $4,800 back, but the remaining balance has grown to about $18,000 because of interest, penalties and court costs. The lawsuit and collection on the debt have been the subject of court hearings and a judgment debtor's examination last November during which Jennings was told he still owed $18,000 to the city.

    Jennings said he doesn't believes he owes the money.

    "I don't think there was anything to it in the first place. When we brought that Promise Neighborhoods to the table, and (Mayor Barry) Cheri saw that it was being received by people who wanted to see this happen, she came up with this foolishness," Jennings said. "You can go back to them and find out what their stances are."

    Jennings was referring to a City Council meeting in October during which he approached the council about funding for a new youth program. The council never took action on the request.

    Asked if he had paid back anything since his last court appearance, Jennings said he had not.

    "I haven't been requested to pay anything else back, other than that $4,800. That's all I was requested to pay back."

    Not so, according to the attorney handling the case for the city, Bill Ready Jr.

    "There have been no payments made, since the one and only payment he made to keep from being locked up because of the bench warrant," Ready said. "Since we finished the judgment debtor exam (in November, 2012) he obviously knew the remaining balance on the judgment because I questioned him about that. No payments have been made. No one has contacted us on his behalf and that judgment is still out there earning interest against him."

    Ready said Jennings' attorney has not contacted him.

    "He seems to be of the position that he hasn't been requested to make any more payments," Ready said. "I don't understand how he can make such statements since he sat through a judgment debtor exam after being locked up for a few days because he refused to undergo a judgement debtor exam. I just do not understand how he can say hasn't been requested to make any other payment because he very well knows from those questions that he owes whatever the balance is, and we were there seeking assets of his to collect on the balance of the judgment."