Dr. Mark Whitaker might be the last person Hampton University students would expect to own a company owing millions in back-taxes and loans.
With a Masters of Business Administration from the Pennsylvania State University and a Doctorate in Jurisprudence from the Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law, he is an individual with a firm grasp on the main points of business law. It seems that no amount of academic knowledge excludes anyone from making discernible mistakes.
This past Friday, it was discovered by 13News Now that Southern Bank has filed a lawsuit against Whitaker and his company, New Bethel Development LLC–after he defaulted on a loan and failed to pay real estate taxes for years. The company has neglected to pay Southern Bank more than $2.6 million.
Whitaker serves as a Portsmouth, Virginia city council member.
He is also the assistant pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Whitaker has built an impressive rapport with his students, with many praising his approachability and general knowledge of the subject matter.
One of his business law students stated, “Of course Dr. Whitaker is very knowledgable on business law based off of his experience and background.”
Other students claim that he is very open. “He makes himself available very often to students, even bringing up opportunities for us to pursue graduate school and careers in [business] law.”
The property under scrutiny is 4358 Greenwood Drive, an undeveloped plot of land that Whitaker has “failed to maintain…in a tenantable condition,” according to the lawsuit; in addition to a failure to make payments in a timely manner.
Local residents have complained that the property is bringing down surrounding property value, citing that the eyesore could be a deterrent for prospective buyers.
According to 13News Now, the lawsuit says New Bethel Development LLC and Whitaker have not paid real estate taxes and storm water fees since 2009.
Whitaker and his company
“They [Southern Bank] just want the mortgage to be paid,” said Kevin Duffan, a legal analyst, “…they’ll only go this route if they are convinced the mortgagee will never pay the mortgage or isn’t going to pay it in any timely fashion at all.” Whitaker is currently being sued for $2.9 million, which includes $160,000 in deliquent real estate taxes.
In being a Portsmouth councilman, Whitaker frequently makes decisions with taxpayer dollars, and with that public responsibility, comes the assumption of personal fiscal responsibility.
According to the lawsuit, Whitaker is entangled in a legally binding “agreement absolutely and unconditionally guaranteeing the payment of the loan.”
A reputation-damaging lawsuit such as this could possibly shorten his career as a councilman, and is surely causing concern for citizens of Portsmouth under his jurisdiction.
For Hampton University students, future class meetings may be canceled as his attendance in court is mandated.