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Subpoena names company in Hudson case

Federal authorities who have charged a former state environmental official with public corruption subpoenaed a state agency in November 2007 for any records dealing with a company called Agri-Ethanol Products of Raleigh.

That subpoena, obtained today through a public records request, was related to a federal corruption charge against Boyce Allen Hudson, a former N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources official who is accused of trying to expedite permits for an ethanol company — not identified in court documents — in exchange for cash, Dan Kane and Ben Niolet report.

Court records show that Hudson will plead guilty to the charges next week in federal court. Efforts to reach Hudson and his attorney have been unsuccessful.

Officials with Agri-Ethanol Products could not be immediately reached for comment today.

The subpoena also sought information about the agency's dealings with a partnership that figured prominently in the Randy Parton Theatre.

More after the jump.

Watson apologizes for North Carolina

Check your caller ID for a phone call from Rick Watson.

At Randy Parton's press conference Friday, Watson, the former head of the Northeast Partnership who brought Parton to North Carolina in the first place, spoke in your stead, Jonathan Cox reports.

"I'd just like to, on behalf of over 8 million people in the state of North Carolina and the leadership in the state of North Carolina and also the city of Roanoke Rapids, I'd like to apologize ... to Randy Parton for coming here and lending himself and his family and his name to create an entirely new industry in the state of North Carolina and to be treated the way he's been treated," Watson said.

Watson doesn’t work for the state. In fact, his employment was terminated with the partnership in 2006 after the State Auditor deemed he had a conflict of interest. He continued to lead the state-funded economic development group after he signed on to work for Parton’s company, Moonlight Bandit.

Pressed at the news conference, Watson said he had a right to apologize because he was born and raised in North Carolina.

Dome called Gov. Mike Easley's press office to see if he shared Watson's view. After all, Watson said he was speaking on behalf of the leadership.

"I'm not going to ask the governor to respond to something that dumb," said Seth Effron, his spokesman.

Pearson: No conflict of interest

Ernie Pearson says he was not a founding partner.

The former attorney for Moonlight Bandit Productions, the company that until last week managed the new Randy Parton performing arts theater in Roanoke Rapids, said that neither he nor the former head of an economic development partnership were part of the company until months after it had struck a deal to manage the theater.

Pearson, a Cary attorney, said he, Rick Watson and four others had become partners in the company on March 2, 2006, roughly a year after it was created, and eight months after Roanoke Rapids officials had hired the company to manage the new theater, Dan Kane reports.

Prior to that, country singer Randy Parton and his wife, Deb, were the sole owners of the company, Pearson said, though he served as legal counsel and Watson often provided financial advice.

Pearson and Watson's involvement with the company has led to conflict of interest concerns. They both left their respective roles with the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Economic Development Commission after news reports surfaced about their ties to the theater project. Pearson had served as the commission's legal counsel.

Today, the theater has become a huge controversy for the city as it struggles to bring in enough visitors to help pay for the cost of building and operating the $12.9 million facility.

Pearson said that he, Watson and the four other members left the company earlier this year as part of a reorganization. Pearson said neither he or Watson received any compensation for leaving the company. Watson could not be reached for comment.

Roanoke Rapids hires lawyers

Roanoke Rapids officials have hired a Raleigh law firm to fight Randy Parton.

After a closed session Tuesday, the City Council referred questions about possible legal action to Johnny M. Loper of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

Loper said he will be reviewing documents before helping the city determine how to run the theater and whether to end its relationship with Dolly Parton's brother.

Also Tuesday, Carolina Journal reported that the former president of a state-financed economic development partnership that recruited the Partons had an ownership stake in their company, Moonlight Bandit Productions.

It is unclear whether Rick Watson had a stake in the company when Parton signed the deal, however. (N&O

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