Winfield in default, banks say; he says all is OK

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 8, 2010

Vicksburg Mayor Paul Winfield is in default on a loan for property on Main Street, according to records filed with the Warren County Chancery Court.

Winfield and a family company in which he is listed as “manager” in state documents have also defaulted on a combined four loans over the past month, the records show, but the mayor said he and the company avoided foreclosures by working out payment plans with the lender.

“I haven’t been to any foreclosure sales,” Winfield said. “I am fine. I am going to be fine. My properties are fine. They are going to be fine. People should not worry about me.”

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Asked how the defaults had occurred, Winfield said, “I’ll just say this. I’ve been back doing business in Vicksburg for eight or nine years now. Nothing like this has ever come up. All of a sudden, it has.”

Asked directly, Winfield declined to say there was a direct connection between his becoming mayor in July and the lenders’ action. Instead, he suggested that economic difficulties affecting banks might have prompted his lenders to issue foreclosure notices, the first of which was executed Dec. 8.

“The banks can speak for themselves, but a lot of them are struggling right now,” Winfield said. “They’re calling in notes and cutting off lines of credit.”

Banking privacy laws prevent bankers from discussing relationships with borrowers, said Howell Gage, chairman of RiverHills Bank, the source of four of the five loans on which Winfield or his company defaulted.

“I’d simply say that RiverHills Bank is a very strong bank,” Gage added. “We just finished an excellent year. We’re not struggling.”

Deeds of trust recorded by Warren County Chancery Clerk Dot McGee show that RiverHills made a $64,104.62 loan to Winfield last February for property located at 602 Farmer St.

The same month, RiverHills provided a limited liability company managed by Winfield and his two brothers $103,372.60 for property at 1129 Openwood St. and $59,902.83 for property at 1214 Randolph St., the records show. The LLC, called Investment Properties Group, also received a $39,567.28 loan from RiverHills in 2007 for property at 1408 Farmer St.

The office where Winfield practiced law before becoming mayor is located at 1129 Openwood. The other properties are residential.

Foreclosure notices executed by Jackson attorney William B. Kirksey on Dec. 8 covered all of the properties and called for them to be sold on Jan. 4. Those sales, apparently, were averted by Winfield.

A Dec. 21 foreclosure notice filed by Vicksburg attorney William M. Bost Jr. covers a $40,608 loan from Guaranty Bank & Trust Co. to Winfield for property at 1118 Main St. Winfield lives nearby.

According to the notice, that property is slated to be sold to the highest bidder Jan. 22 outside the Warren County Courthouse.

Winfield, 36, defeated incumbent Laurence Leyens, who also had diverse real estate interests. As mayor, he is paid $81,033 annually and manages the city’s $31 million budget. He also serves as city attorney for Port Gibson, a job he has said pays $30,000 annually.

Before taking office, Winfield was in a private law practice with his brother, and he also served as counsel to the Warren County Board of Supervisors.


Contact Ben Bryant at