Meridian Star

November 1, 2013

State looking into MPD station developer

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The secretary of state's office is questioning whether Jackson developer David Watkins took funds from a mall project and diverted it to a project to build a new police station in Meridian.

    Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is seeking administrative penalties plus restitution of $587,084.

    Watkins denied any wrongdoing during an administrative hearing that ended this week before an administrative officer at the secretary of state's office.

    In a legal notice, Hosemann says Watkins Development diverted about a half million dollars in bond proceeds for the Metrocenter Mall project in Jackson to close the deal on the police station project.

    Watkins' attorneys have acknowledged he moved the money from a Retro Metro bank account that was set up for the mall redevelopment to the law enforcement project in Meridian.

    Records show Watkins formed Retro Metro LLC in August 2010 to renovate the former Belk building in Metrocenter Mall in west Jackson.

    At the same time he formed Meridian Law Enforcement Center LLC, in Meridian in April 2011 to redevelop a building in Meridian into a new police station at an estimated cost of $9.2 million. The Meridian Star reported then that the project was being financed through Watkins Development LLC and Citizens National Bank in Meridian.

    Watkins moved over half a million dollars directly from Retro Metro LLC's account on April 12, 2011, into the account of Meridian Law Enforcement Center LLC while he was a manager of both companies. Hosemann wants that money returned to the Retro Metro account.

    In recent weeks, the Jackson Redevelopment Authority fired Watkins from the Farish Street Entertainment District project, and Watkins and the JRA are suing each other over the controversy.