Melton's Lawn Crew, Unveiled | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Melton's Lawn Crew, Unveiled

The Jackson Free Press has learned that the head of a lawn service, financially seeded by Mayor Frank Melton, was arrested for armed robbery and rape in recent years. However, the young man tells the JFP that he pled to a lesser robbery charge, and the woman who accused him of rape in 2001 dropped the charge and is, in fact, the mother of one of his four children.

Fredrica Brunson—also known as Jermaine Butler—is now the owner of the Wood Street Lawn Service, to which the city has paid thousands for lawn cleanup over recent months. Brunson told the JFP Tuesday that he took over the service about eight months ago after its original owner, Michael Mayes, reneged on paying the workers. Mayes has since been "picked up" again by police, he said.

Brunson is very close to his mentor Frank Melton, whom he says he met when he was 10 or 11 at the Farish Street YMCA. "We were swimming down there; he helped us stay out of trouble," he said in an interview Tuesday. "Mr. Melton was the first person I ever seen trying to take young people out of the hood ... instead of hustling, to get a life." Brunson has lived in Melton's house in the past and still stays there now and then, he said.

He also joined Melton's bodyguards and other young people including his friend, Michael Taylor, when the group allegedly demolished the Ridgeway Street duplex in August, according to witnesses and, reportedly, cell and video images. Melton and his bodyguards Michael Recio and Marcus Wright face multiple felonies in that case, including directing a minor (Taylor) to commit a felony.

Witnesses say Brunson was also with the group later the same evening at the Upper Level nightclub, where they say he jumped off the Mobile Command Center and punched club manager Tonari Moore in the face while he was in handcuffs. Brunson said he has accompanied the mayor on the Mobile Command Center, but denied that he was there that night. "I wasn't there, period, that night," he said Tuesday.

Along with Taylor, Brunson, who turns 23 this week, was arrested last year for a Dec. 4, 2005, armed robbery of the Headliners Barbershop near where he grew up on Wood Street. He is on probation now after pleading guilty to simple robbery, drawing six years—three on paper and three suspended, as he put it. He said it was a minor crime—that he and Taylor saw pot in the shop and took it.

The sheriff's office arrested the two young men last June after TV cameras showed them at a Father's Day barbecue at Melton's home. District Attorney Faye Peterson told media then that she received a tip that two of the young men—Michael Taylor, then 16, and Brunson—were wanted for the armed robbery. Sure enough, they were already indicted, and had not shown up for the arraignment.

But when McMillin sent deputies to Pleasant Avenue, where the young men hang out, Melton showed up in his black Tahoe with his bodyguards and Taylor in the back seat. The mayor told deputies that he would "take care of it," as McMillin told the JFP this week, and then instructed the bodyguards to drive away with Taylor still in the SUV.

"(Melton) said he already knew about (the warrants) and drove off, leaving my deputies in the street," McMillin said Tuesday. He called Melton personally and told him the law required him to give up the young men.

"I might have made a mistake, and that's OK," Melton told The Clarion-Ledger later.

Just days before the drive-away, Melton had announced that he was helping seed the Wood Street Lawn and Cleaning Service with $5,000 of his own money and asking the city to give them equipment, as well as selling them confiscated trucks for $1 apiece.

Brunson said this week, though, that the city has never provided any equipment and complained that the city can take a month to pay his invoices. Melton originally bought them lawn mowers, he said, but they're gone. "Michael (Mayes) did what he did with it," he said. Now, he uses one lawn mower and two weed-eaters that belong to the mayor. He bought two riding mowers, three push mowers and two weed-eaters with the money he's been paid. He also bought a trailer, and his father, Ricky Butler, loans him his truck to move the equipment.

Brunson is cousins with Jimmy "Wally" Butler, a reputed Wood Street Player who was killed outside The Birdland on Farish Street in 1997, allegedly by Johnny Hilliard of the Virden Addition. Brunson is also a cousin of Richard "Poo" Butler, who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Keon Perry at Birdland on the two-year anniversary of Wally Butler's murder, which authorities believe was part of a string of retaliatory murders between Wood Street and Virden Addition drug dealers. While at the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, Melton vowed to arrest the Wood Street men who allegedly killed Perry, and later Hilliard's brother Harry, and Aaron Crockett.

Brunson said some friends and family don't like his friendship with Melton, whom they think is out to get them. "I don't let it come between me and Frank Melton," he said. Poo, he said, is not angry, though: "It don't be my cousin; he understands I'm trying to do something the right way."

Ward 6 Councilman Marshand Crisler has been concerned about Brunson's past and connections since last year. "Some members of that company have their history, and if there was ever a reason to pause before making a decision on the claims docket, that company is the most glaring example," he said. He emphasized that City Council "is responsible for what its contractors do." But Melton is telling council "not to worry, and we have to take their word for it," Crisler said.

In his Nov. 6, 2006, contract proposal (PDF, 800 KB), Brunson stated: "This proposal is for the city of Jackson to help in the beautification of the city." His work included "cleaning up areas not serviced by city workers," Brunson said, adding, "Prices will vary per job assignment."

City records show that on Dec. 4, 2006, then-financial administrator Peyton Prospere approved a request from Brunson for $3,500 for grass-cutting and clean-up of the site of the Town Creek Apartments, which Melton demolished last year. On Dec. 1, 2006, Melton sent a memo to Herman Taylor, then community improvement manager, attaching Brunsons invoice. "Please process the payment of this invoice accordingly and in a timely fashion," Melton requested. Both Taylor and Prospere have since left their city jobs.

On Dec. 27, 2006, Joseph Lewis, Taylor's replacement, signed another request for payment for the group, this one for $2,500, for clean-up of the grave yard at 1233 J.R. Lynch Street, and then another for $800 on Feb. 15, 2007, for work on city property at 3712 Spryfield Road. Brunson said that Lewis, and his boss Don Neely, give him assignments and help him get paid.

The JFP also obtained a copy of a three-page "bid pack" (PDF, 600 KB) dated Jan. 17, 2007, on which Brunson submitted bids totaling $13,750 for cutting grass and weeds on 36 lots around the city. The lowest bid was $200; the highest was $800 (for 607 Tifton Drive).

Brunson also submitted a certificate of insurance dated Dec. 8, 2006, issued by Statewide General Insurance at 3073 J. R. Lynch Street, where Melton took him to get bonded. When asked if they were concerned about his record, Brunson said, "I don't think they even know about the criminal record."

Reached Tuesday, Lewis said the city requires contractors to be insured up to $100,000, have a Jackson address, have a tax ID or a Social Security number, and a license to operate in the city, which costs $25. Robert Peavie, an agent at Allstate, says a felony arrest should not be a problem in bonding a company—so long as it is properly incorporated. The Wood Street Lawn Service is not registered with the Mississippi Secretary of State.

"It was this (contractor) that raised a lot of questions," said Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon. "I just want to know who we're doing business with. Are they legitimate? Are they on the up and up? I haven't been given any assurances, yet." She pointed to the fact that Melton "tried to hide" Taylor and Brunson as a dramatic red flag.

Ward 2 Councilman Leslie McLemore says he is OK with the city hiring felons. "As long as they do the job and get to work, there's not a problem with them. I'm a person who believes in second chances, quite frankly."

Melton told The Clarion-Ledger June 19, 2006, that the lawn crew kids were close to his heart: "I love these kids. I really love them." Brunson repeated the sentiment about Melton then: "It's love to me. It's love." However, in the June 29, 2006, story about the arrests, Melton backtracked: "I'm trying to get them off the streets. I don't really know any of them."

The JFP broke the story on Dec. 4, 2006, that Taylor had been arrested Nov. 18, 2006, for armed carjacking, three months after the duplex visit. Four days after the JFP's story and nearly three weeks after Taylor's arrest, Judge Swan Yerger revoked his bond for the December 2005 armed robbery. When he was arrested in November, Taylor gave his address as 2 Carter's Grove, Melton's home.

Brunson said he looks forward to Taylor getting out of jail and thinks it will happen any day now. "I still got a space for him. I only got five people right now," he said.

Melton did not return calls for this story.

Additional reporting by Adam Lynch.

Previous Comments

ID
91461
Comment

Fredrica Brunson—also known as Jermaine Butler A guy named Fredrica? I guess if there can be a boy named Sue...

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-03-13T21:12:40-06:00
ID
91462
Comment

All jokes aside, it's downright scary to think what kind of people are doing business with the city. Sure, I'm all for these young men being able to work and try to do something positive for themselves, but given what these guys have allegedly done, it's about time people begin to question the people Frank hires to city positions and reward contracts to. Keep in mind, he did try to undermine the efforts of the King Eddie developers by trying to bring in a shady millionaire from Texas to handle the project.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-03-13T21:26:09-06:00
ID
91463
Comment

Great article... but.... Poo? Seriously? Someone actually goes by Poo? And that was a nickname that he chose? Wow.

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-03-13T22:03:43-06:00
ID
91464
Comment

The interesting thing is this article is humorous in a way, and I almost think it was intended to be read in that fashion. I think this also illustrates the good intentions of Frank gone awry, but when its all said and done, if the men did the work they were paid to do, the city got its moneys worth, certainly the contracts don't appear to be excessive on the surface.

Author
GLewis
Date
2007-03-13T22:25:13-06:00
ID
91465
Comment

Free Tom Head.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2007-03-13T22:27:07-06:00
ID
91466
Comment

When did the bid process take place? Was this crew the lowest of at least 3 bids? Dude, Melton and his clique are going to go down like the Titanic. Those who want to go home should do so ASAP! If you can make $200 to $800 a lot to clean up with just a lawnmower or two, and a couple of weed-eaters, I want in on this racket! Absolutely, this is a freaking joke, probably a gov't violation, and has to be the worst "image" piece you want for Jackson. Take this paragraph: Melton originally bought them lawn mowers, he said, but they’re gone. “Michael (Mayes) did what he did with it,” he said. Now, he uses one lawn mower and two weed-eaters that belong to the mayor. He bought two riding mowers, three push mowers and two weed-eaters with the money he’s been paid. He also bought a trailer, and his father, Ricky Butler, loans him his truck to move the equipment. Is this the capital of Mississippi or some hick town in the middle of nowhere? This is the kind of stuff people laugh at across this land when they read this. "Yee-farking-Haw!" This is Mayberry stuff! When you hear people on the radio (they know who they are) try to terrorize the public about horrible crimes - THAT MAY HAPPEN TO YOU IF EVEN DARE STEP FOOT IN JACKSON! EVERYBODY PANIC! I hope they can eventually say they are sorry for even supporting a man who allows his own "mentees" to roam the streets with indictments, warrants, and committing heinous crimes even after getting busted with the mayor at Ridgeway. They are allowed to thumb their nose, just like Melton, at the law until the press (finally JFP) gets wind of the story. Continue to lie to yourself that his heart is in the right place. Those who still support him have their head in the sand!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-13T22:32:53-06:00
ID
91467
Comment

**Free Tom Head** <--Kingfish By the way, where IS Tom? I knew there was somebody missing!

Author
Kacy
Date
2007-03-14T08:44:35-06:00
ID
91468
Comment

Exclusive training video for the Wood Street Lawn Crew.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-14T10:27:53-06:00
ID
91469
Comment

Kacy: I was just getting ready to ask that same question. And I'd pay for Tom. You don't have to offer him for Free. :D

Author
Lady Havoc
Date
2007-03-14T14:11:40-06:00
ID
91470
Comment

I'm not going to stand in front of Cups with a "Free Head" sign! ;-o However, he is missed here!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-14T15:20:31-06:00
ID
91471
Comment

I have a real problem with our purported mayor handing out jobs to felons at the expense of taxpayers.Nothing about any of this sounds kosher!

Author
K RHODES
Date
2007-03-14T21:57:51-06:00
ID
91472
Comment

K, how about the fact that many of these young men probably would fail a drug test. That seemed to be an issue with Melton when he joined the City. Remember the lady that came over from WLBT as the head of personnel? I believe she quit because Melton was trying to force her to hire his "boys" without following proper City procedure which includes a drug test. Now, if one of them cuts their hand off while cutting grass with the mayors lawnmower, that he bought with his money, then who is liable? They are getting paid by the City. Using equipment bought by Frank Melton. Possibly with drugs in their system?

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-15T08:26:55-06:00
ID
91473
Comment

I just put up the PDFs for this story. Take a look for yourselves.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-03-15T08:40:13-06:00
ID
91474
Comment

That sure is some good money for the little bit of work they did! These contracts seem suspect at best. Why did he go by Jermaine Brunson, a combination of his two names (Fredrica Brunson AKA Jermaine Butler), for the contract and as owner of Wood St. Lawn Service? Could it be, that Melton was trying not to raise red flags with the media since this guy has committed some really bad crimes? This could be exactly why Peyton Prosper left? I wouldn't have signed off on $3500 for cutting a yard to some group that is associated with the mayor.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-15T09:00:19-06:00
ID
91475
Comment

Back to the name issue. He signed his "bid pack" Fredrica Brunson. Also, the invoices only show work on one particular property for each invoice (i.e. Spryfield Rd). Yet, they are getting paid as if all the properties were cleaned up. But, Melton's heart is in the right place.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-15T09:09:36-06:00
ID
91476
Comment

His full name as listed in police files apparently is Fredrica Jermaine Brunson. I think Brunson is his mother's maiden name. His father's name is Butler, as I say in the story. For the record, Adam and I went and looked at the Town Creek Apartments lot. That was likely a big job. It's large. It's not just "a yard." I haven't looked at all the lots, however.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-03-15T09:17:49-06:00
ID
91477
Comment

Also, where in the "bid pack" is it listed that the "Grave Yard" at JR Lynch would be cleaned up by Wood St? The same goes for the "Town Creek Apartments." That job is not listed in the bid pack. In fact not any one property was to cost more than $800 to clean up. So, they clean up three locations, two of which were not in the original bid. Can you say "contract fraud?" Where are the other bids? Good to know Wood St. Lawn Service would be on call for any City Officials to use their services. Blunston was a big fan of having County employees clean his yard and house back when he ran the Juvenal Detention Center.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-15T09:19:06-06:00
ID
91478
Comment

The two requests for payment - $800 and $2500 - were they paid in Petty Cash?

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-03-15T09:21:08-06:00
ID
91479
Comment

Oh, and don't confuse Ricky Butler with Richard 'Poo' Butler, as I did at first. Ricky is older, and is Richard's uncle. And as I understand it, Jimmy "Wally" Butler is the son of Ricky's sister, JoAnne, and goes by his mother's maiden name as well. OK, as for the bid pack—it was hard to get a straight story out of the city over this (imagine), but what it looks like happened was that the lawn service hadn't been doing things officially, with bids and the like, until City Council started paying attention late in the year. It looks to me like they were just doing these invoices and Melton was pushing it through himself, basically telling the city folks to pay them. And note that the insurance didn't happen until December, when Mr. Melton took him to the insurance company on Lynch Street, while Mr. Brunson says they have been operating the lawn service for 8 1/2 months. So it strikes me as an effort to make it all kosher long after it was started, at least based on the documents we have here.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-03-15T09:27:14-06:00
ID
91480
Comment

So the Town Creek Apartments were torn down last year and in that short an amount of time it gathered $3500 worth of clean-up and yard work? We spent $200,000 tearing down the property. I now question whether the job was done fully? Also, the name thing goes to consistency within contracts. Don't know if it is a big deal; but, it has a appearance of impropriety. Also, the list of properties in the "Bid pack" has a box checked that says "Asbestos Present" as the very first thing at the top of the list. Is Jermaine Fredrica Brunson Butler trained in clean up involving asbestos? It appears they were supposed to do more then just cut grass by clearing and hauling away large debris, and boarding up the structures on the properties. Which we have no clue whether they happened or not?

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-15T09:37:09-06:00
ID
91481
Comment

The City of Jackson should have both an internal and an external audit. What is the deal with this? Where are the results of their findings? melton and his crownies have made jackson the laughing stock of the century. Friends have call from all parts of the country asking what the heck is going on in Jackson. Those who have the power to stop this madness won't because it is a way of proving that Black folks are stupid, amoral, uneducated, criminal, unfair, reckless, backwards, dirty and just plain low-down. I admit that the man elected as mayor (melton) fits this description; however, the man that this City let got (Johnson) was just the opposite. I have tried hard to believe something other then this being a conspiracy: One that would ensure that Jackson would never elect another African American to head anything. We have only come one mile out of slavery and it is people like melton who cause blacks to lose ground. I'm told that the women in City Hall are afraid to go to the bathroom for fear of being harmed by the "criminals" who walk around City Hall as if they personally own the place. Sad. Sad. Sad. Where are the ministers? Have the majority of them become "Coin Operated." This was once a group who could bring calm to the worst storm. Help!

Author
justjess
Date
2007-03-15T09:48:31-06:00
ID
91482
Comment

Wow, I didn't catch those issues y'all point out. Those are even more damning that contract fraud on Melton's part occurred. What about Workman Comp? Has the lawn crew paid payroll taxes? Then there is this: Robert Peavie, an agent at Allstate, says a felony arrest should not be a problem in bonding a company—so long as it is properly incorporated. The Wood Street Lawn Service is not registered with the Mississippi Secretary of State. Which leads to these great questions by the best council member we got: “It was this (contractor) that raised a lot of questions,” said Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon. “I just want to know who we’re doing business with. Are they legitimate? Are they on the up and up? I haven’t been given any assurances, yet.” She pointed to the fact that Melton “tried to hide” Taylor and Brunson as a dramatic red flag. Amen sister!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-03-15T09:50:08-06:00
ID
91483
Comment

Poo? Seriously? Someone actually goes by Poo? And that was a nickname that he chose? AFAIK, most people who have that nickname spell it P-o-o-h, like Winnie the Pooh, and they are usually girls. Anyway, thanks to Brian and Donna for breaking all of this information down. This is definitely something that will not be on the 6:00 news any time soon.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-03-15T10:23:20-06:00
ID
91484
Comment

I hope Ben reads this and also looks into this. The Council better watch out before they are audited and have to pay this money back like before.

Author
jada
Date
2007-03-15T10:55:40-06:00
ID
91485
Comment

Good point, jada. I was thinking the same thing.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2007-03-15T13:24:07-06:00
ID
91486
Comment

How a grown a#$ man goes by the name Pooh is beyond me. Don't look for me to call you that, brotha.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2007-03-15T13:25:23-06:00
ID
91487
Comment

I meant POO.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2007-03-15T13:27:34-06:00
ID
91488
Comment

Well, I call Todd "Toddy," for the record. And he's a grown man. ;-) There are plenty of street nicknames. Most of them are pretty funny.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-03-15T14:46:37-06:00
ID
91489
Comment

think of the politicians and nominees who have gotten in trouble for nannies who didn't pay social security taxes on them.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2007-03-15T15:28:21-06:00
ID
91490
Comment

Ok, get ready to slam me, but I do have to say at least someone is giving these guys paying work! I know from running two different businesses, there are a lot of legal hoops and obviously the mayor didn't give enough guidance as far as the proper Secretary of State filing, consistent contracts, and of course the biggest mistake, not bidding properly through the official channels. Still, I marvel at the eagerness to see absolutely no positive glint of light in a scenario where ex-cons are actually working & beautifying the city.

Author
Izzy
Date
2007-03-16T09:29:14-06:00
ID
91491
Comment

I'm not going to slam you, Laurel. This is complicated, and I've liked and felt compassion for these young men that I've met. I don't think the idea should be slammed at all. However, there are many questions to ask about execution and follow-up, and they need to be asked. And if it turned out that Mr. Melton did take these young men to the Ridgeway house with him, and the Upper Level, that puts this in a whole new light. Note that Mr. Brunson denied that above.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-03-16T09:33:30-06:00
ID
91492
Comment

I recommend rereading this great article on the Lawn Service Fredrica Brunson—also known as Jermaine Butler—is now the owner of the Wood Street Lawn Service, to which the city has paid thousands for lawn cleanup over recent months. Brunson told the JFP Tuesday that he took over the service about eight months ago after its original owner, Michael Mayes, reneged on paying the workers. Mayes has since been “picked up” again by police, he said. Brunson is very close to his mentor Frank Melton, whom he says he met when he was 10 or 11 at the Farish Street YMCA. “We were swimming down there; he helped us stay out of trouble,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “Mr. Melton was the first person I ever seen trying to take young people out of the hood ... instead of hustling, to get a life.” Brunson has lived in Melton’s house in the past and still stays there now and then, he said. Well, he was arrested again!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-04-18T15:18:04-06:00
ID
91493
Comment

Oh My!!!!!!

Author
Roc
Date
2007-04-18T15:47:20-06:00

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