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The City Fathers up in Roanoke Rapids are giving Randy Parton a good old-fashioned drubbing. He’s been accused, one way or another, of everything from drunkenness to negligence to mismanagement. But, after all, who’s really to blame?

The City Fathers, not Parton, decided to borrow $21.5 million to go into the country music business – on the theory they’d turn Roanoke Rapids into a mini-Nashville and help prop up sagging real estate values. They hired Parton, who hasn’t had a hit in years, named their theater after him, and offered him a $3 million kitty and $1.5 million a year in artist fees to sing in the theatre.

And Parton did what any red-blooded American (and a lot of businesses) do everyday – he looked the government moneybags in the eye, probably unable to believe his luck, and said, Where do I sign?

Next the theater opened and money was supposed to roll in – but it didn’t.

So last month the City Fathers cut Parton’s fee to a mere $250,000 a year and now, after another month of bad press, they want to cut it again preferably to nothing – but they’re willing to settle for $125,000 a year for five years.

The bottom line is someone in Roanoke Rapids in pursuit of breathing life into real estate values made a $21.5 million mistake with taxpayers’ money – and it wasn’t Randy Parton. He may have walked off with a pot of gold – but, ultimately, in the broader sense, he was the hired help. The City Council (with a helping hand from State Treasurer Richard Moore) put up the cash that made it all happen. And they hired Parton. Now, to pass the buck they’re trying to make him the scapegoat as if he’s the villain and the whole thing was his idea not theirs.

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