Second Baptist Church sues contractor for damages


(courtesy)

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN Editor

Second Baptist Church has filed a lawsuit against TCM Companies, LLC, the contractor responsible for building what was supposed to be the church’s new sanctuary. 

The civil suit was filed in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court in July and claims that the Long Beach-based firm failed to properly construct a new sanctuary for the church, saying it was “negligent in performing its defective work and breached its standard of care.” 

TCM was operated by Donald Crowther, who served as the company’s president and was arrested in April 2016 on felony charges for fraud relating to the sanctuary project. 

Construction on the project began in August 2015 and TCM was paid for services through November 2015. 

The church is now suing the company for damages, claiming TCM caused sudden damage to the site and surrounding areas after defectively removing and replacing unsuitable soils, defectively compacting the soil, failing to complete the foundation work and compaction of the building pad, installing unsuitable formwork and installing unsuitable plumbing. 

The members of Second Baptist, who are represented by Jackson attorney Dorsey Carson, also claims the church incurred damages in an amount to be determined by the jury or finder of fact. 

In a second count in the lawsuit, Second Baptist members claim the construction of the site was performed in “a remarkably poor and defective manner … construction defects were so bad they could only have resulted from reckless, wanton or grossly negligent conduct by TCM.” 

Among the different aspects of the project, it is mentioned that construction of the drainage and foundations were defective, which resulted in subsequent damages through the project, the site and the entire church property. 

What’s more, the church is also demanding that TCM cover all attorneys’ fees and expenses of litigation. 

The ongoing effort to recoup funds has seen little to no progress made on the actual construction site,  which is a problem exascerbated by infighting among different factions within the church body. 

ISSUES PERSIST 

Crowther’s criminal case is set for the next circuit court term scheduled to begin on Oct. 15. 

The Starkville Daily News previously reported the board of trustees for the church sought to recoup roughly $450,000 in church funds paid to Crowther for the project, which stalled in the fall of 2015. 

In April 2016, Crowther admitted to falsifying copies of checks TCM paid to contractors and inflating them when they were sent to Second Baptist for repayment.

The false checks were initially brought to light when Quinn’s Dirt Services owner and Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Deputy Andre Quinn discovered a discrepancy in the checks he received and deposited for work on the project and those Board of Trustees Chairperson Bennie Hairston had seen as part of a payment schedule. 

The actual checks Quinn deposited from TCM were for $18,491.60 and $1,000, respectively. However, copies of the same checks were presented to Second Baptist as being for $80,591.60 and $10,000.
Crowther previously said he feared the church, which had not secured a bank loan for the expansion, would run out of funds for the project, so he instructed his son Cameron Crowther, who now lives in the Los Angeles area, to create a payment schedule that would secure as much money as possible. 

The payment schedule submitted by Crowther was estimated to have been inflated by over $100,000.

The Second Baptist scam is not the first time Crowther has faced criminal charges relating to a construction project. In 1995, he pleaded guilty in federal court to paying $150,000 in bribes to a former Veterans Administration official while seeking $4.6 million in contracts for four jobs at the Minnesota Veterans Medical Center. 

He was sentenced to 21 months in prison on the bribery charges and fined more than $425,000.

Other litigation related to the sanctuary project saw Second Baptist Pastor Joseph Stone and deacon Terry Miller accused of contempt, which was ultimately held in abeyance by Circuit Court Judge Jim Kitchen in July 2017. 

In February, members of Second Baptist also filed an emergency motion for contempt and sanctions in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court against Bennie Hairston, Jackie Lindsey, Sandra Gibbs and Charlene Smith, with church members alleging that they have not honored the court-ordered obligation to pay certain church expenses.

The group of Second Baptist members is represented in this case by Jackson attorney Julie S. Noone. 

The complaint alleges that the church Finance Committee, under the direction of Hairston, has refused to pay multiple bills issued by Baldrige Law Firm for legal services, expenses related to church maintenance and upkeep, expenses for church advertising, expenses related to Stone’s attendance at a Baptist convention and attorney fees for William Starks, who represented Stone and Miller during the contempt hearing. 

The complaint then requests that the group be incarcerated and ordered to pay attorney fees and expenses incurred, along with immediately issuing checks to cover all of the church’s related expenses.

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