|Landlord's attorney: 'No good deed goes unpunished' with YouthPride|
|Written by Dyana Bagby and Laura Douglas-Brown|
|Thursday, 08 March 2012 17:12|
The attorney for Inman Park United Methodist Church, which leases space to YouthPride and is suing after months of unpaid rent, strongly disputes a charge from the LGBT youth agency's executive director that the organization has any legal claims against the church.
"As it relates to the $40,000 rent, which we have always said was overpriced… the bottom line is this: We have legal claims against the church as well," YouthPride Executive Director Terence McPhaul told attendees at a March 6 town hall meeting, which was hosted by an independent task force concerned about the future of LGBT youth services in Atlanta.
"We had legal claims against the church as well," McPhaul repeated. "So there were certain things that we actually missed out on as a result of certain things the church did not comply with — so we haven't answered the lawsuit yet, but we will, and soon."
YouthPride has not paid rent since June 2011 and is being sued for back rent and late fees totaling more than $40,000, according to a complaint filed Feb. 17 with the Fulton County Magistrate Court.
Peter Morgan, attorney for Inman Park UMC, said the church "is not aware of any claims YouthPride might have," and McPhaul continues to tell him that the agency plans to pay part of the back rent.
"YouthPride has certainly not brought any such matters to my attention, and I have had several recent conversations with Terence," Morgan told GA Voice. "In fact, Terence is still telling me that YouthPride very much wants to make the church whole and promising to pay over to the church at least $20,000 which he claims YouthPride is about to receive in support."
Morgan accused McPhaul of changing his story.
"YouthPride seems to present different messages for different audiences, but we are confident that the court will quickly establish the truth," he said.
Rather than working against YouthPride, Morgan said the church "has done everything possible to accommodate YP in its financial difficulties."
As evidence, he listed that the church allowed YouthPRide to go so long without paying rent before taking legal action, and also that Inman Park UMC continues to pay utilities for YouthPride. The utilities are included in the rent that the church says YouthPride has not paid since last summer.
"Unfortunately, if YouthPride has now suggested that it may have claims against the church that in any way excuse its nonpayment of rent in so large an amount, this would bear out the cynical maxim that no good deed goes unpunished," Morgan said.
YouthPride’s financial troubles became public in December, when YouthPride Board Chair Jordan Myers posted on Facebook that the agency needed to raise $25,000 in one week, and McPhaul said YouthPride had to raise $40,000 by Dec. 31 or face closure in 60 days. Despite that deadline passing, YouthPride currently remains open.
In the wake of the financial crisis, questioning by GA Voice revealed confusion within YouthPride about such basic issues as who serves on the board of directors and when the last board meeting was held. The organization has fewer than the five board members required under its bylaws, and the board has not met since at least December 2010 — although its bylaws stipulate monthly meetings.
McPhaul has maintained that the agency is staying open, although Tana Hall, the former counselor for YouthPride, told GA Voice that Myers told her the agency was stopping operations on Feb. 17. She said she asked to be laid off on Feb. 15 so she could ask for unemployment benefits and informed Myers of this decision.
Myers has not responded to repeated interview requests during YouthPride's financial crisis and did not attend the March 6 town hall meeting.
The meeting was held by two ad-hoc committees of community volunteers trying to assess the current financial and legal status of YouthPride and insure that at least some services for youth continue should the agency close.
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