GreenTech: Former Tunica Board attorney was agent for company

TUNICA COUNTY, Miss. -- In an area famous for its casinos, it appears local and state leaders took a gamble with taxpayer money.

As the Mississippi Attorney General's Office continues its investigation into GreenTech Automotive, WREG has learned there were even more red flags about the startup car maker that local and state officials seemingly ignored.

This includes the fact that the attorney tasked with protecting the interest of Tunica County was working for both sides.

"Looking back, I would say it was probably more hype than it was substance," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, whose congressional district includes Tunica County.

GreenTech Automotive's Tunica plant officially opened in 2014, but problems had already started.

A whistleblower told WREG in 2012, "We never manufactured that car, it came manufactured and we rolled it off and acted like that was our first car."

Employees said it was all a show.

The company faced scrutiny for its use of a federal program that allows people from other countries to skip ahead in the immigration line if they invest at least $500,000 in projects like GreenTech, in areas that need economic development.

However, a plant official told NewsChannel 3 in 2014, "The allegations are in the past, let's head toward the future. We're building cars, the proof's in the pudding, right here behind me, cars are being built, jobs are being created."

Except that didn't quite happen.

It's unclear how many, if any, 'MyCars' GreenTech manufactured.

The MyCar, a two-seater electric vehicle was billed as a cross between a golf cart and full-size car.

The company said it was planning to build 10,000 cars in its first year.

According to its Memorandum of Understanding, GTA was also supposed to create 350 jobs that paid at least $35,000.

The company was to invest $60 million in the project and pay back loans provided through the Mississippi Development Authority.

GreenTech fell short in every category.

At its height, it employed 94 people. By early 2017, there were only 10 workers on the job.

According to a report from the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor, GreenTech made one loan payment of $150,000 in November of 2016 after it had already defaulted.

The OSA sent GreenTech a formal demand for more than $6.3 million in July, but the company didn't respond.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering turned the case over to the AG's office in August.

"Hindsight, someone could probably say it was not a good deal, but again, there was markers all along that should have been red flags saying why are you going so fast," said Rep. Thompson.

Media reports reveal other states like Virginia, where GreenTech is actually headquartered, turned down the project.

Leaders there had serious questions about that visa program, and GreenTech's founder Charles Wang's lack of experience in the automotive industry.

Here, the Mississipi Development Authority and the Tunica County Board of Supervisors did the vetting.

However, WREG learned one of the very people charged with providing legal advice to Tunica County was wearing multiple hats.

The News Channel 3 Investigators discovered that former board attorney Andrew Dulaney also served as the registered agent for GreenTech.

As of early July, WREG found Dulaney's name on GTA's 2016 annual report filed with the Mississippi the Secretary of State.

It was also listed on GreenTech's initial filings from 2009.

Records show in 2008, Dulaney helped incorporate GreenTech's predecessor, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive Corporation.

WREG visited Dulaney's Tunica office.

We asked, "Would that be considered a conflict of interest?"

He said, "No comment ... I appreciate you stopping by."

In general, it's fairly common for attorneys to file state paperwork for corporations.

But, not only was Dulaney the board attorney and registered agent for GreenTech, he also served as a board member and counsel for the Tunica County Economic Development Foundation.

The foundation was instrumental in the deal that secured GreenTech its land.

That land deal represents part of the $6 million GreenTech owes the the state.

A 2011 tax document shows the Foundation paid Dulaney a little over $13,000 for his work on the land purchase.

While Dulaney did invite WREG into his office, he refused to comment on GreenTech.

Roughly a week after our visit, records show Dulaney resigned as GreenTech's registered agent.

Rep. Thompson said when we informed him about the matter, "I don`t know as an attorney how you can serve more than one entity involved in the same transaction. So, I would think again, that's another red flag.

John K. Perry is the new attorney for the Tunica Board of Supervisors.

He said, "Well, whether or not in retrospect you should see red flags on different things I don't that, I don't know."

Perry wasn't around for the GreenTech deal, but we asked him if Dulaney's roles were clear at the time and if that could have affected due diligence.

WREG asked, "Should it have been disclosed?"

Perry responded, "I really, because I was not in the capacity that I am now at that time, I don't want to speculate as to what was disclosed, or whether or not it was or wasn't."

Perry says if we're using hindsight, it's critical to remember, Tunica needed those jobs.

"You have the state saying we looked into this company, this company wants to develop this part of the northern part of the Delta in Mississippi. We want job development, we want growth."

Congressman Thompson agreed the promise of GreenTech sounded good.

However, in the end,  he says that's all it was.

"So obviously, from the fact that nothing has ever come of GreenTech then somebody failed to do what they should have done."

Perry also said Tunica and state leaders did a good job of protecting taxpayers by drafting such a clear deal with GreenTech that included specific requirements and timelines, because that is what's allowing the state to go after the company for the money it owes.

He also said if GTA doesn't work out, that land is fully developed and could be used for another company.

WREG reached out to GreenTech for comment and didn't hear back.