Harris named in $200K judgement


First Posted: 10/11/2012

DOBSON — A former Mount Airy city commissioner and candidate for public office in this year’s election has been named as a plaintiff in a judgement alleging default on a $200,000 bank loan, and has been found in breach of contract.

According to documents filed by the General Court of Justice of the Superior Court Division in Forsyth County, William Todd Harris and Betsy Ann Harris have defaulted on a Dec. 21, 2000, loan taken out through the Bank of Davie, predecessor to the Bank of the Carolinas.

William Todd Harris is a former Mount Airy city commissioner and is challenging Carolyn Comer for the county’s Register of Deeds seat.

The terms of the loan specify that Betsy Harris pay $200,000 plus interest. Todd Harris executed a guaranty of payment of the debt.

A guaranty of payment is a promise to pay another person’s bills if that party does not settle them properly, according to the American Bar Association.

As of Aug. 23, 2011, Bank of the Carolinas was “owed the following with respect to the note: Principal of $198,331.666; accrued and unpaid interest of $24,774.37; late fees of $1,248.68; and interest from Aug. 23, 2011 of $48.20 per day,” the bank alleged in the document.

The documents goes on to say that “Betsy Ann Harris has failed and refused to pay the outstanding balance due within the time period allowed by (state law), and therefore is liable to Bank of the Carolinas for attorneys’ fees equal to 15 percent of the amount owed to the Bank of the Carolinas.”

As guarantor, Todd Harris is also responsible for the debt, according to state law.

“Bank of the Carolinas has made demand upon the Guarantor (Todd Harris) for payment of the balance remaining due under the Note, but the Guarantor has failed and refused to pay same.

“The Guarantor’s refusal to make payment of the outstanding balance due when and as required by the Guaranty constitutes a breach of contract that has damaged Bank of the Carolinas and entitles Bank of the Carolinas to recover from the Guarantor the entire unpaid balance due under the Note, plus attorneys’ fees and court costs.”

Superior Court Judge J.E. Turner, now retired, ordered that both Betsy Ann and William Todd Harris “jointly and severally”, pay the principal of $198,331.66, interest of $24,774.37, late fees of $1,248.68, and interest at the rate of $48.20 per day from Aug. 23, 2011.

They are also liable for attorneys’ fees of $29,749.74.

The ruling was handed down on Jan. 9.

Contacted Thursday, Todd Harris said he and his wife are in the process of talking with Bank of the Carolinas in an effort to settle the matter.

“We are and have been in negotiations with the Bank of the Carolinas to satisfy that debt, and it’s our intention to do so,” he said.

Harris said that, like many Americans during the recession, money problems made any other outcome nearly impossible.

“My wife had lost her job, which caused us to get behind on the loan,” he said, noting that in the current economy such a situation is “not an unusual circumstance.”

His wife went to Florida for employment for about six months before returning and taking a position at Clear Channel Communications.

“(She) was making less than half of what she was before, so we had to make the decision to pay the mortgage on our primary residence and our car payment,” he said. “Something had to suffer.”

Harris said that with the judgement coming down in January and his filing for office in February, political motivations could be behind The Mount Airy News being alerted to the matter.

“It sounds a little political to me that someone would alert you to this,” he said.

Harris’ opponent for the Register of Deeds seat, Carolyn Comer, said she “hates it when anyone gets in that situation.”

According to Comer, she heard about the judgement from her staff shortly after it was entered into the court records.

But she was adamant that she had nothing to do with the media being alerted to the matter.

“I can say I’ve been concerned since learning about this earlier this year and I’m still concerned,” she said. “I didn’t know whether this would come out or not, but we’ve had several people in here inquiring about this who had seen or heard about it on their own.

“I hate that this has happened,” she said. “It’s nothing that I’d planned on sharing with anyone.”

Reach Keith Strange at kstrange@heartlandpublications.com or 719-1929.

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