TUPELO – Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann brought to Northeast Mississippi his continuing legal concerns about pre-need funeral providers in Mississippi who may be operating illegally and with insufficient balances to cover commitments to policy holders.
Hosemann, who visited Prentiss Memorial Gardens, which has been taken into receivership and whose operator, Don Middleton, an Atlanta lawyer, is under indictment and considered a fugitive, said there is “more to come” in the statewide investigations.
Grave markers in a storage shed at Prentiss Memorial, Hosemann said Wednesday, suggest a lack of attention to recent burials, including at least one military veteran.
“These people are in unmarked graves,” Hosemann said.
Public hearings for policy holders to come forward and air concerns will be scheduled within six to eight weeks in Northeast Mississippi, Hosemann said.
Hosemann said many of the pre-need businesses are formed as limited liability corporations, which currently require little reporting and have too little regulation.
He will propose legislation in 2010 to tighten the rules.
The former private practice attorney also said he will continue pursuing full implementation of a system of business courts at the circuit court level, using a sitting judge who hears only business-related cases to speed the process and seek resolution within a year of filing. His plan also would call for gubernatorial appointment of a temporary judge to carry the burden of the sitting judge whose attention is focused entirely on business cases.
Hosemann said he visited Judge Jim Roberts’ court in Alcorn County to see how the pilot program is working.
“It has taken nine years to bring the case he is trying to trial, and that is not acceptable,” Hosemann said.
Joe Rutherford/NEMS Daily Journal