Green Acres session Thursday
Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 26, 2009
State officials have scheduled a question-and-answer session for 6 p.m. Thursday for clients of Green Acres Memorial Park.
The informal session, rescheduled from February, will be in the Circuit Courtroom on the second floor of the Warren County Courthouse. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Dave Scott, head of the office’s Business Regulation and Enforcement Division, are expected to attend, spokesman Pam Weaver said.
Green Acres came under court supervision in January after Hosemann said the owners, who live in Texas, could not show compliance with a state law requiring pre-payments by customers being held in reserve.
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According to court documents, more than $370,000 is missing from the cemetery’s pre-need trust account. The division oversees the accounts, into which 85 percent of pre-paid services for cemetery merchandise must be paid. The situation has forced those holding contracts with the cemetery to pay a second time for pre-need services.
In March, Harry Sharp, owner of The Duff Green Mansion, was tapped by the state to head up a receivership established by court order to operate the 15-acre commercial cemetery on U.S. 80. Officials with the state said he was chosen because of his experience in cemetery management.
Under the receivership, lots can be sold once again after the state probe ended all business at the cemetery. Graves may be opened and closed, markers purchased and placed for at-need contracts. Also, decisions on personnel and their salaries are under the purview of the receiver.
Until the probe, Houston-based Mike Graham and Associates owned the cemetery. Court holds have been placed on the firm’s business and trust accounts held in Mississippi, including Vicksburg, and Florida as a result of the initial action by the state on Jan. 23. Company representatives have hired local law firm Wheeless, Shappley, Bailess & Rector, but have not appeared in court.
More than 700 holders of cemetery deeds and other Green Acres-related documents have filed them in the Warren County Chancery Clerk’s Office to prove their worth in case of need.
Seven additional funeral industry firms in Mississippi were targeted for action by Hosemann’s office in the sweep. Corporate reporting violations alleged at Green Acres were the most serious individual case, in terms of the total of missing money.
Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org