Money struggles, evictions, an unusual DWI. These are Charlotte’s city candidates.

A review of civil and criminal court records show several candidates have had faced personal or business legal setbacks. Some have been reported when candidates have run in the past. Some are new.
A review of civil and criminal court records show several candidates have had faced personal or business legal setbacks. Some have been reported when candidates have run in the past. Some are new. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

One mayoral candidate is on the hook for a quarter-million dollars for an unpaid court judgment.

A City Council candidate faces a September trial for assaulting a security guard.

And another got a DWI – while sitting in a parked car.

Those are among the legal issues that have faced this year’s candidates for Charlotte’s mayor and City Council.

A review of civil and criminal court records shows several candidates have faced personal or business legal setbacks. Some were reported when candidates ran in the past. Some are new.

Democratic mayoral candidate Joel Ford faces a 10-year-old judgment involving an old business partnership. What started as a $90,000 debt has ballooned with interest to $258,000.

Here’s a look at what the records show on Ford and other candidates.

Darrell Bonapart, D

Bonapart had a series of financial problems, most of which have been previously reported.

Records show he owes Citifinancial $7,767 from a 2007 judgment. In 2008 he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, with liabilities of nearly $124,000. And in 2016 he and his wife faced foreclosure on their house near the old Eastland Mall.

Bonapart, running in District 5, says the judgment originated when he used his credit to help a relative buy a car. “Now I’m stuck for a car,” he says.

He says the financial setbacks stem from 2006, when he was discharged from the Army with a disability.

Gary Dunn, R

When Dunn ran for mayor in 2013 (as a Democrat), the Observer reported an outstanding judgment for $5,000 he owed to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority. With interest, it’s grown to $9,471. Records show it’s still unpaid.

It stemmed from a visit to a Myers Park clinic for treatment of a medical condition. Dunn claimed it was a “free clinic.” A hospital spokesman said community clinics charge on a sliding scale. When Dunn didn’t pay, the hospital obtained a $5,000 judgment against him in 2008.

After a reporter told Dunn it remains unpaid, he responded with a letter to the hospital.

“Please resolve this and bill it on my Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Account and remove your error,” he wrote. “Then remove all your Free Clinic listing [sic] on the internet … I am sure you can resolve this in a timely manner.”

Roderick Davis, D

Davis faces a September trial on charges that he assaulted a security guard at the transit center.

He says he was walking through the center one morning in June when he heard the officer directing a racial comment toward a woman and then to him.

“Before I knew it was tussling,” Davis says.

The trial date is Sept. 14.

Joel Ford, D

Court records show Ford, a state senator who’s running for mayor, faces a judgment to Bank of America that now amounts to $258,314.

The amount was $90,000 when a court levied it in 2007 against Ford and two partners at Premier Holdings Group, which opened a barber shop in Eastland Mall. In 2005 the bank gave Premier a $100,000 credit line. Court records show the business failed to make payments. Proceedings against the two partners were dismissed in 2008.

“(Nine) years ago my former business partners took out a loan from Bank of America,” Ford says in a statement. “I have taken responsibility to clear this legal matter. And I expect to be legally cleared of any responsibility through actions from my attorney through the courts.”

In 1999, Ford’s waste disposal company, Ford Container Industries, got a $37,000 loan from the city, using Ford-owner property in the town of Belmont as collateral.

In 2007, with the loan unpaid, a court awarded the city a $37,000 judgment. When the city learned the Belmont property had been foreclosed on, it filed a claim with the title insurance company and recovered its $37,000.

Ford, who has called himself “a recovering entrepreneur,” says he’s learned from his setbacks.

“The lesson in this is I took a risk and tried to start my own businesses,” he says. “I learned a lot of lessons that you can’t learn in a classroom.”

Justin Harlow, D

Harlow got a DWI in 2012 – while sitting in his parked car.

He says he was outside his Chapel Hill apartment after a dinner one winter night when he went inside his car to make a call and turned on the ignition to keep warm. Suddenly police were outside and charged him with driving while intoxicated.

The District 2 candidate says he had not been driving or planning to drive that night. A judge told him if he was behind the wheel with a key in the ignition, that was enough. He takes responsibility.

“It happened and I was irresponsible,” he says.

Constance Partee Johnson, D

Records show she was twice evicted from her Salisbury home in 2015, the year she ran for city council there.

Johnson, who’s running for mayor, says she was attending a local seminary and a school official mishandled her student finances, leaving her short of rent money.

“He took my money and applied it to courses I hadn’t applied for,” says Johnson.

LaWana Mayfield, D

As the Observer previously reported, Mayfield filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004, two years after her house was foreclosed on.

She has said the trouble stemmed from an attempt to buy a house. Looking at two, she said she inadvertently signed papers for both. She has blamed the agent and bad advice.

Mayfield could not be reached despite repeated attempts.

James Mitchell, D

Mitchell, an at-large council member, still faces a $2,303 judgment from 2010. Interest has increased it to $4,385.

Mitchell says the judgment, which has been previously reported by the Observer, is related to his 2010 divorce. Their home off Sunset Road was foreclosed on in 2011.

He says he’s continued to work with SunTrust Bank.

“I’m finally trying to work on a plan to get it resolved,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll get a payment plan before Labor Day.”

Lucille Puckett, D

Puckett, who is running for mayor, was a Charlotte Housing Authority commissioner in 2011 when she was evicted from a public housing complex.

She has said she was evicted from Dillehay Courts after a lengthy fight that began when the Housing Authority said she violated rules by meeting with a man who’d been banned from CHA property. Puckett says she was trying to help a man who she felt was being wronged by authority rules.

“I think I was wrongly evicted,” she says.

She now runs a non-profit whose clients include residents of public housing.

Vinroy Reid, D

A candidate in District 5, Reid runs a construction company called V.R. King Construction. Now he and his company are being sued for $3 million by a Cotswold yoga studio.

The owners of Y2 Yoga studio sued him last year for breach of contract and other allegations involving a major renovation project. According to the suit, they’d signed a $1.3 million contract in 2013. Work halted in 2014.

Court documents also show that in June the Mecklenburg County sheriff attached nine properties owned by Reid. Reid also faces at least three liens from the city of Charlotte for failing to clear three properties of junk or vegetation.

In 2012 the IRS put a lien on his property for $4,939 in unpaid federal taxes.

Reid acknowledges the ongoing suit with the yoga studio.

David Michael Rice, R

A day after he bought a used Jeep Cherokee in 2015, Rice parked it in the wrong place and it was towed away.

Now he no longer has the car and owes United Towing $2,800, according to records.

In 2013 Rice, who’s running for council at-large, filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy and later had a string of eight liens against his Grier Heights property. He faced foreclosure in 2009. The Observer has previously reported those issues.

In the past, Rice has acknowledged financial problems. “Just problems like anybody else would have,” he once said, adding, “It wouldn’t affect my ability to manage budgets.”

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