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Aid pulled for Missouri project led by man on probation

Aid pulled for Missouri project led by man on probation

December 21st, 2010 in News

The Missouri Department of Economic Development said Tuesday evening it was withdrawing $2 million in state aid for a southeastern Missouri development project led by a man who is on probation after pleading guilty to passing more than $90,000 in bad checks.

The project was to receive $1.3 million in tax credits and $750,000 through a grant program. Gov. Jay Nixon earlier this month flew to Cape Girardeau to tout the development incentives for the parent company of Hometown Innovation Team, which plans to manage a dental, vision and chiropractic cooperative. The Associated Press reported last week that court records show the president and CEO of Hometown Innovation Team, Weaver Dickerson, pleaded guilty in 2007 to five felony counts for passing bad checks.

Economic Development Department spokesman John Fougere said Tuesday that agency officials have been reviewing the project closely and determined that statements on an application for the grant program were falsified. He said contingent authorization for aid through that program was revoked and that the company will not receive tax credits.

"No incentives have or will be going to this company, period," Fougere said.

Fougere said the matter also would be referred to local prosecutors in case there were probation violations.

The application requires companies to certify that no one with an ownership interest has committed a felony, is under indictment for a felony or is on parole or probation. Dickerson - who also is listed as the president of Hometown Holding Group LLC in the application - signed the certification for the company.

Dickerson, 34, told the AP last week that he does not own the company. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.

Fougere said Dickerson is listed as a member of Hometown Holding Group LLC and that any member is an owner.

The state application also requires certifications on several issues, including that no illegal immigrants have knowingly been hired; that the company, active owners or majority owner have not filed for bankruptcy; and that there are no significant pending lawsuits against the company or any owner. The statements are made under penalty of perjury.

Dickerson told the AP last week that he is on probation but declined to comment about the cases. He contends his personal history is not relevant to a project that he said would bring well-paying jobs, generate revenue for local governments and help people get health care.

Dickerson previously told the Southeast Missourian newspaper in Cape Girardeau that the state incentives would be helpful but that the project can continue without them. The $10 million development calls for 90,000 square feet of renovations in three buildings. The new clinic had been scheduled to open June 16.

Nixon has highlighted numerous businesses locating and expanding in Missouri that state development incentives are helping. A spokesman for Nixon has said the governor's office was unaware of Dickerson's criminal probation before Nixon traveled to southeast Missouri.

Cape Girardeau was a sponsor for Hometown Holding Group's application. The city's mayor, Harry Rediger, said Tuesday that the project might be able to continue but acknowledged it might not ever happen. Rediger said city officials were unaware of Dickerson's probation during the final negotiations.

Court records show Dickerson's sentence was suspended in March 2007 and he was placed on five years of unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to writing bad checks worth $73,000.

In May 2007, he pleaded guilty to two other counts of passing more than $18,000 in bad checks. His sentence was suspended, and he was placed on supervised probation for five years.

The state Department of Corrections said its records show Dickerson's probation ends in 2012.