TUNICA, Miss. — Mississippi's state auditor says an electric car plant that closed before it ever produced a car left taxpayers holding the bag for unfilled promises — and he intends to make them pay.
Stacey Pickering says investing taxpayer dollars in emerging technology like Greentech's electric cars is risky business.
He was skeptical on the day in 2012 when Greentech announced its plans during a celebration that even drew former president Bill Clinton.
"And I'll be honest with you," Pickering said. "On the day when they cranked up those energy-efficient electric cars and blue smoke bellowed out, you knew that this was a sham from the very beginning."
The 350 jobs and $60 million of investment never materialized. In fact, the auditor says, Greentech never ended any year with more than 100 employees.
Pickering wants Greentech to refund state and local tax incentives.
The repayment is a civil matter, but there is another part of the probe as well.
"The criminal part of the investigation is still on the table," he said. "We haven't pulled the plug on that. And we'll pursue those things at the appropriate time."
Pickering says Greentech initially refused to cooperate with the audit, which started last year. But that changed when the auditor demanded repayment last week.
"It's interesting ... they actually escorted our auditors off the property, did not want to talk to us. We had to subpoena files because they would not return calls, under the threat of courts," he said. "And now, now that we've issued the demand, now that we're moving forward, their attorney called us this week. It's amazing."
Pickering says the response from the company wasn't what people in Tunica hoped to hear.
"But he had very little he could actually offer except saying 'Hey, we're going to go bankrupt if y'all do this.' Well that's their problem; mine is to protect the taxpayers of the state of Mississippi."
Greentech has 30 days to respond to Pickering's demand.
We reached out to the company and went to the plant but haven't received a comment.