Saturday, December 08, 2012

L.A. Church Sues Former Pastor, His Wife and Others For Fiduciary Breaches and Fraud

The Los Angeles Times reports that last Tuesday a suit was filed in a California state court by the oldest Black church in Los Angeles against its former pastor John Hunter, his wife and a group of other church officials and directors of affiliated corporations in a battle for control of the church. According to the paper:
Hunter has had a rocky tenure at the church. Since taking over First AME in 2004, Hunter has been sued for sexual harassment, a civil claim that was settled for an undisclosed amount. The Times reported in 2008 that an internal audit found he charged $122,000 in jewelry, family vacations and clothing to the church's credit card. He later agreed to a nine-year repayment plan.
He earned a generous salary during his tenure, lived in a $2-million home and drove a Mercedes-Benz paid for by the church. His wife earned $147,000 a year running nonprofit organizations connected to the 19,000-member congregation.
But over the last few years, the hilltop church in the West Adams district has fallen into debt. The church owes nearly $500,000 to creditors and some vendors say they have not been paid in more than a year.
The complaint (full text) in First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles v. Hunter, (CA Super. Ct., filed 12/4/2012), alleges that when John Hunter was transferred to a new church, his wife Denise continued to control affiliated corporations that provide social services rather than allowing FAME's new pastor to do so. It alleges breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and conversion. It asks for injunctive and declaratory relief and for damages of over $1 million.