Mayoral Candidate Ken Parris Settled Disputes with the City and a Dissatisfied Customer in the Early 2000's

Published on 25 October 2023 at 11:16

Persimmon Homes and the City of Washington


Sometime in the spring of 1999, Persimmon Homes LLC, owned by Ken Parris, entered into an agreement with the city of Washington, to lease a 135,000 square foot building for business purposes. The property was owned by MEAG and leased to the city of Washington with a sublease being provided to Persimmon Homes. It is unknown the exact date the lease agreement was made because the original agreement was not found. In the hundreds of documents, I did review, I saw three different dates referenced as the date the agreement began. One stated January 1, 1999, another March 8, 1991. Since payments began in April of 1999 and Parris has said he believed it was the Spring of 1999, it seems most likely March of 1999 is the correct month and year.


I initially made an open records request to Jerry deBin on October 11, 2023. deBin told me I needed to request the documents from the Payroll Development Authority. There was a form online available, to contact the Payroll Development Authority so I made a request but didn’t hear back. I again, contacted deBin telling him I hadn’t heard back from anyone at Payroll Development Authority. He suggested I contact Sam Moore. I called the courthouse in an effort to speak to Moore. I wasn’t able to speak to Moore but was told I would be emailed a form to fill out and email back to them, to request the records. I filled out the form right away and emailed it back to the Payroll Development Authority. I was told they would get back to me with a time Janet Parker would be able to meet with me because she had to be present the entire time, I reviewed the documents.


 I also filed an open records request to discover who had requested records from the Payroll Development Authority within the past 30 days as mayoral candidate Bruce Bailey has on numerous occasions publicly stated these records are “easy to find” and that people are “working hard to get the truth out” when referring people to an anonymous Facebook Page to get information. Bruce Bailey is the only person, aside from myself who has requested records from the Payroll Development Authority. Bailey has also stated "City, county attorneys are all willing to hand it over. You (Washington Wilkes Informer) aren't even trying." At no point was I advised by city administrator or the Payroll Development Authority that the process of requesting records is to approach the city attorney or county attorney to request these records. It is important all citizens are aware of and adhering to the same protocol for accessing records that are to be made available under the Open Records Act.


On Wednesday October 18th I met with Janet Parker and was provided several folders full of hundreds of documents related to Persimmon Homes LLC and the building that was leased. I looked through every folder and at every document and did not see an original agreement. There was a tax abatement agreement however, it was from 2002 and was not signed. I called County Commission Chair, Sam Moore and asked him if he knew where the original agreement might be. He told me it was likely in the archives at city hall so I again contacted deBin who told me he didn’t believe the document was at city hall. I am sharing what I have found but much of what happened is dependent on what the original agreement stated because much of the dispute was based on what was originally agreed upon.


The documents showed that Persimmon Homes began making payments in April of 1999. The payments were in the amount of $15,034.62. October 2021 was the first late payment. November and December payments were also missed.


There was a tax statement sent to MEAG from Wilkes County stating an amount due of $11,488.79 with a due date of January 4, 2002. There was no tax statement that was sent to Persimmon Homes in the files but there were letters from Legette stating taxes were due in 2002. There was no tax statement  or bill, in the file for 1999, 2000 or 2001.



On January 10, 2002, a letter was sent to Parris from Charles Legette Jr, who was the attorney for the city of Washington at that time stating “cure default on rentals and leave issue of taxes and attorney’s fees for future resolution provided you make immediate payment of the 4 months due. If not cured, there will be a termination of the sublease.” The payments were ultimately made.


On March 29. 2002, there was  a letter from MEAG to “Mayor Thomas” stating the lease agreement MEAG had with the city stated city could not get behind on paying the taxes. Again, since an agreement between the city and Persimmon Homes could not be found, it is unknown if the sublease the city had with Persimmon Homes, stated Persimmon Homes was  or was or was not responsible for the taxes but Wilkes County was sending MEAG, the owner of the building, a tax bill.


Until August 2003 when a settlement was reached, there were multiple communications between Legette and attorneys representing Parris. There were demands for payment and notices to vacate the property, then payments made. There was a sublease Parris and a company called Pliant, which is now Berry Plastics, had in place, for a portion of the building and there were letters between Legette and Pliant with Legette stating he wanted Pliant to cancel the lease with Parris and lease directly from the City of Washington. The lease Legette proposed to Pliant was almost identical to the lease agreement Parris had with Pliant.


On November 21, 2002, Attorneys for Parris sent a letter to the Wilkes County tax assessor stating “We are in receipt of several additional notices of assessment which purport to assess taxes for years 1999, 2000 and 2001. This attempt to retroactively assess taxes based on a purported agreement that Persimmon Homes obviously never signed is unconscionable and without basis in law or fact.” This would have been the tax abatement agreement that was drawn up in 2002, three years after the original agreement was signed.


Other documents in the files showed that prior to the agreement with Persimmon Homes, the city was actively seeking businesses to lease or purchase the property that Persimmon Homes ultimately inhabited. In those notes, potential businesses were told by the city that there were advantages available such as considerable tax relief. Specific details of that relief were not stated and since I have not seen the original agreement, what tax benefits were offered to Persimmon Homes. Is unknown.


Ultimately, an agreement between the city of Washington and Persimmon Homes was made on August 20, 2003. The city paid Parris $12,500.00 on August 21, 2003. The Consent and Judgement Order states “Plaintiffs claims against defendant and defendants claims against plaintiff in this action are hereby dismissed with prejudice. This Consent Order and Judgement shall constitute a final disposition of all claims and matters at issue in this civil action.”


Parris says that the original agreement  with the city, stated there would not be ad valorem taxes assessed and that was a part of the draw to set up his business in Washington. He moved his business to Athens where he said it was successful until the crash of the housing market in 2008 and 2009. At that time, he had to lay off his workforce but kept the building and equipment in hopes the market would recover but that did not happen so he ended up ultimately auctioning off the remaining equipment.


I interviewed Parris on October 24 and he addressed the issues with the city and the agreement. You can watch the video here.


 2006 Environmental Assessment


In the files I reviewed, there was a document from a company called GEI in July 2006 that stated they had done an environmental site assessment on the site of the building Persimmon Homes had leased and a hazardous solvent compound called trichloroethylene (TCE) was detected in the groundwater on the property. It was noted in the assessment that TCE breaks down over time into another chemical called vinyl chloride. The assessment also states “It is highly toxic and a known carcinogen that is strictly regulated by the EPA.” At one time, a company called Concord was on the site. The assessment states GEI spoke to a former employee of Concord and the employee said that industrial wastewater and waste streams generated at the facility were disposed of in floor drains. This material included acids, caustics and dyes. The employee said at one time they had to replace underground pipes and there was a release of this wastewater from the pipe that was located beneath the parking lot of the property. The employee didn’t believe an assessment or cleanup was ever conducted. GEI went on to recommend a multi-phase approach to additional testing and remediation. The property address was 100 Persimmon Parkway in Washington.


I asked Ken Parris if he was ever aware of a potential for environmental hazards on the property and he said he was not. I will try to get verification on whether the recommended work to clean up the TCE was done by the city.


Michael and Teresa Davis Vs. Persimmon Homes


August 30, 2001 Persimmon Homes and Michael and Teresa Davis came to an agreement with Persimmon Homes agreeing to pay the Davis’ $140,790.00.


The Davis’ alleged that in May of 1999, they were in the process of finalizing a contract to have a home built by someone named Jim Kisiamo. At some point, the Davis’ were advised that Mr. Kisiamo was no longer involved and a recommendation was made for Persimmon Homes to provide construction of their home. The Davis’ stated they had many meetings with Parris and associates and were assured they would be provided with a home that was exactly as promised by Mr. Kisiamo. On June 21, 1999 they made a down payment of $8,500 to Persimmon Homes. The Davis’ stated Persimmon Homes contracted with several sub-contractors to perform work on building their home and that the work was not done well. They also allege Persimmon Homes were aware of the deficiencies and failed to correct them. They alleged they were unable to obtain a certificate of occupancy.


Parris said he “bought the home back” in the agreement. He said the Davis’ wanted to complete the inside of the home themselves and that is was common for Persimmon Homes to build a home with customers wanting to do some or all of the inside finishing themselves, to save money. He said that when they bought the house back from the Davis’, they finished the inside and leased the home out for many years. He said one family lived in the home for 6 years. Ultimately, they did sell the home. Parris explained in an interview on October 24. You can watch the video here.


Reported by Michelle Chaffee

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