Critical LaRoque board member took out loan shortly after leaving

For those following every twist and turn in the current controversy surrounding state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, here’s some more detailed information about Mark Pope, one of the board members quoted in our investigation as saying that he was uncomfortable with the management of LaRoque’s two non-profits.

It turns out that Pope, joined by his business partner Doug Freeman, took out a $160,000 loan from the non-profit for a project to build apartment complexes shortly after stepping off the board of East Carolina Development Company. Freeman is the same Kinston developer that the USDA found out took out more than $2 million in loans from LaRoque’s non-profit, well over the $250,000 limit. (Read our initial investigation for more background on that.)

At Tuesday’s press conference, LaRoque said that Pope and Freeman were behind on payments – and had never made a single one.

From the Kinston Free Press’s story today:

LaRoque said Pope — Lenoir County’s economic development director — owes his nonprofit lending firm, East Carolina Development Company Inc., more than $180,000 in principal and interest on a loan he took out in 2006 to support his side rental property business, which was created in 2003.

“We’re getting ready to turn (the matter) over to our attorneys,” LaRoque said Wednesday.

LaRoque raked Pope — the 2011 North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year — over the coals Tuesday during a news conference, which he had called to defend himself against a recent piece published by N.C. Policy Watch after a lengthy investigation of the nonprofit entities he manages.

Pope spoke with NC Policy Watch before the press conference about the loans and payments have been made, and said he had taken out the loan along with Freeman, and that they fell behind when the economy starting to go under.

“The market turned the wrong way,” Pope said.

But Pope said he has been making payments, thought he suspects LaRoque will try to collect on the loan, Pope said.

“There has been money paid,” he said.

Some of the dispute has made its way into court records, in the pending defamation lawsuit LaRoque filed against Van Braxton, his Democratic opponent from the last election. Braxton brought up LaRoque’s management of the non-profits during the 2010 campaign.

Braxton’s attorneys are claiming that LaRoque is not turning over enough records, and have asked a Lenoir County Superior Court judge to find LaRoque in contempt of previous court orders to hand over documents from East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company. The matter is pending before the judge.

The motion includes portions of an email exchanges between LaRoque, Pope, and Jerry Hannah, the loan officer that currently works for LaRoque. (The documents are towards the end of the lengthy motion, beginning at page 49.)

The emails show that LaRoque and Hannah brought up the delinquency in the loan in July 2010, more than a year ago.



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