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|[UPDATE] YouthPride files counterclaim against landlord Inman Park United Methodist Church|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|March 14, 2012 11:23|
YouthPride is digging in to fight the lawsuit filed against the LGBT youth group by its landlord Inman Park United Methodist Church, which says the LGBT youth group nonprofit owes more than $40,000 in back rent.
A court date is set for March 20 in Fulton Magistrate Court to try to settle the dispute, according to online documents filed with Fulton Magistrate Court. The notice was mailed out to the church on Tuesday, March 13.
Inman Park UMC filed its lawsuit against YouthPride in Fulton Magistrate Court on Feb. 17 including an eviction notice to be served on the organization mandating it leave the premises.
An eviction notice was served on YouthPride on March 2 by the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, giving YouthPride a week to respond. McPhaul filed the counterclaim against the church on March 9, online records show, just under the deadline of one week allowed to do so. McPhaul signed the one-page counterclaim on behalf of YouthPride.
In Magistrate Court, an employee or official with a corporation is allowed to file a civil suit on behalf of that organization and an attorney is not necessary.
At a March 6 town hall forum to discuss the viability and future of YouthPride hosted by an independent task force concerned about the future of LGBT youth services in Atlanta., McPhaul vowed to sue 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," McPhaul told attendees.
"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."
Morgan, attorney for Inman Park UMC, told GA Voice on March 8 that 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 said. "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.
[UPDATE] In an interview with GA Voice today, McPhaul said YouthPride has always had claims against the church for repairs needed to the facility and the failure to complete the repairs.
The counterclaim states the church "failed to repair [the] property. Due to this failure, its value has been reduced by $500 each month for 60 months." There is no other information about what kind of repairs were not made.
Inman Park United Methodist Church also released a statement today:
Inman Park United Methodist Church was sad to learn of the financial and management problems Youth Pride, Inc. (YP) encountered during 2011 and especially of the impact these have had on the valuable work the organization provides to its LBGTQ youth clients.
The Church has worked patiently with YP for over eight months without receiving any payment whatsoever for overdue rent for the space YP began leasing from the Church back in 2005. Although YP leaders stated on multiple occasions that they enjoyed the space and facilities, the rent payments stopped abruptly and without warning, leaving the Church unable to plan for this shortfall.
The Church relies heavily on this rental income to sustain its own operations and to be able to provide a place for worship and several neighborhood ministries. After not receiving any rent payments nor hearing from the leadership of YP for an extended period of time, Inman Park United Methodist Church made the difficult decision to seek legal advice and request court assistance to reclaim the premises so as not to further jeopardize the financial situation of the Church.
As of this time, YP still occupies the space and has not made any payments for rent due since June of 2011.
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