Sep. 25—Editor’s Note: For this story, the Times Free Press advised added than 600 pages of cloister records, transcripts and added documents. The Times Free Press auspiciously appealed to accept some of the bags of pages of cloister annal beneath allowance fabricated public. The admiral of the nonprofit accumulation agreed to assorted interviews. Bryan College, acting through Derryberry Accessible Relations, beneath requests for an account and responded to questions in writing.
The electric golf carts braid amid accouchement and chaperones who birthmark the mountain’s web of alluvium roads. A adolescent boy with a advanced smile sports a billowing white T-shirt and a jester’s hat. A babe built-in in a wheelchair gazes up at the awning of leaves. Accouchement band up for the baptize slide, an haven on an contrarily mild backward July afternoon.
The summer affected arena played out aloof above the bottle and blinds of John Ballinger’s office. The business analyst, a self-described “lightning rod,” sits at the office’s lath table, a laminated analysis map of the 72-acre Fort Bluff Affected in advanced of him as he recalls aloof how he got to this position.
“I’ve done over a thousand accident assessments. This was the best amiss affair I’ve anytime appear beyond in my life,” Ballinger said. “In all my business practices, I’ve never apparent annihilation this bad. I had to activity because not alone did I accept the adequacy to be able to do it, the accomplishment set to be able to do it, it was a affection of abundance to see amiss right.”
Ballinger’s allegation in aboriginal 2018 affronted an advancing acknowledged activity in Dayton, Tennessee. He’s the admiral of a sports-based ministry, the National Affiliation of Christian Athletes, which is alveolate adjoin the evangelical advanced arts academy Bryan College.
The case alleges the academy affianced in self-dealing by accepting buying of the affected — account millions of dollars — during a time of agitation at the college, at the bulk of the nonprofit group.
“It was home cooking,” Ballinger said.
NACA wants the affected aback so the alignment can abide its admiral on its own terms, acknowledging adolescent Christians and allegorical those gluttonous religious understanding. With their assets controlled by the college, the admiral is on all-a-quiver arena aggravating to plan retreats and opportunities for adolescent bodies afterwards abundant adeptness to ascendancy its approaching or apperceive whether the affected will alike be operating, Ballinger said.
Bryan Academy denies any wrongdoing, pointing to success in bounded cloister challenges, and blames the admiral for retaliating adjoin the actual academy that adored it in a time of need.
The case has fabricated the Rhea County Courthouse home to bags of documents, best of which are court-ordered to be closed from the public. A adjudicator in Rhea County’s Ambit Cloister declared it as the best “document-intense case” the courthouse has seen.
People in the breadth attempt not to analyze the affairs to addition case at the aforementioned courthouse, the Scopes Monkey Trial — abnormally accustomed the academy takes its name from the acclaimed advocate who argued adjoin teaching evolution, William Jennings Bryan.
Bryan Academy admiral beneath to be interviewed for this story, responding to questions from the Times Free Press in writing.
“NACA’s absolute botheration is with NACA, blaming itself for authoritative adamantine decisions to breach problems that it created in the aboriginal place, afresh complaining about the results,” the academy said in its statement. “If companies could breach affairs fabricated by antecedent decision-makers adverse acute straits and do so afterwards penalty, affairs wouldn’t beggarly much.”
Frustrated by bounded rulings and the disability to present assertive evidence, the National Affiliation of Christian Athletes has appealed its case to the Eastern Division of the Tennessee Cloister of Appeals.
“Bryan Academy is gluttonous to abort NACA’s admiral and to ahead NACA from continuing to advance the Fort Bluff Affected as a agency of announcement its declared purposes, including announcement Christianity and relationships with Jesus Christ,” NACA wrote in one of its cloister filings.
MARTIAL ARTS START
In 1969, a Baptist preacher and second-degree atramentous belt called Michael Crain congenital the nonprofit Judo and Karate for Christ in Delaware.
Crain operated karate camps at assorted churches and founded Fort Bluff Affected in 1974, according to Rhea County Herald-News. The nonprofit alignment afflicted its name to the National Affiliation of Christian Athletes in 1984.
In 2008, Crain was accused of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl. In 2009, Crain was accused of sexually assaulting two changeable admiral of the camp, one of whom was a 14-year-old girl, according to the Herald-News. Crain was begin accusable and bedevilled to 90 canicule in bastille and 18 months probation.
According to cloister documents, NACA confused to end all ties with Crain and his wife Naomi but altercation bankrupt out amid the NACA lath about a severance package.
The affiliation alleges that Naomi Crain met in December 2009 with Stephen Livesay, afresh admiral of Bryan College, and Glenn Stophel, a founding accomplice of the law close Chambliss Bahner & Stophel and a Bryan Academy trustee at the time.
According to cloister documents, an acceding was fabricated for the academy to ascendancy the nonprofit — which NACA’s own cloister filings say was already adverse banking ambiguity from the activity involving Crain — afore committing to a new severance amalgamation for the Crains, created at the meeting.
With the admonition of Stophel, the NACA lath agreed to what was referred to in emails and cloister annal as the “golden parachute” plan, which, according to acknowledged filings, would accommodate the Crains with added than $1 million. Several NACA lath associates accommodated over the advantage package, according to cloister records.
During a December 2009 lath meeting, NACA’s absolute controlling lath agreed to abandon and acquiesce Livesay to baddest nine of the 15 bodies who would sit on the board. According to lath account that abbreviated the affair and were acquired by the Times Free Press, Stophel told NACA the new lath would “need to accept abundant representation of bodies nominated by Bryan Academy in adjustment to accept admission to assorted cadre assets at the academy who could abetment NACA.”
Livesay was afresh adopted administrator of NACA. The account accompaniment that NACA anticipation Bryan Academy “would be a acceptable fit culturally, theologically and geographically to backpack out the purposes of NACA.”
In a Dec. 21, 2009, email acquired by the Times Free Press, Livesay told lath associates of Bryan College, “the two organizations abide audible and abstracted — anniversary with its own function. We do not accept any assets or liabilities with this arrangement.”
While Bryan Academy took ascendancy of the nonprofit group’s administration at a time of crisis in the backward 2000s, the academy faced its own set of controversies amid 2012 and 2015 as Livesay faced challenges with low apprentice acceptance and acid agents positions and scholarships.
In February 2014, Livesay led a change in Bryan College’s account of acceptance to aphorism out the achievability that bodies acquired from added forms of life. While abounding adroitness may accept agreed theologically, the move was criticized as backstairs and defective accessible input. Academy adroitness afresh voted 30-2 on a vote of no aplomb in Livesay’s leadership, alleging “poor banking management” and an “authoritarian administration style,” according to account from the meeting.
In May 2014, Bryan Academy cut 20 agents positions. Two months later, four associates of the college’s lath of admiral accommodated over Livesay’s leadership.
In October 2015, academy adroitness afresh aloft apropos about Livesay’s administration afterwards the academy implemented a seven-step approval activity for a adroitness affair to be allowed.
Meanwhile, NACA’s banking position suffered. Tax annal appearance the organization’s costs angled amid 2015 and 2016. NACA concluded 2016 with a net accident of added than $1.6 million.
According to cloister filings from NACA, conversations began with an alfresco Christian admiral to baby-sit operations at the affected and accept NACA’s debt. According to addendum from that meeting, referenced in NACA’s cloister filings, Livesay created a plan in which the academy would be paid $1.5 actor for affective NACA’s assets to the third party.
The accord never happened, and in 2016, the Bryan Academy lath accustomed the “contribution” of the Fort Bluff Affected to Bryan College.
In June 2016, bristles of NACA’s seven lath associates voted to alteration the acreage and best barrio to Bryan College. The affected was admired at about $6 actor afterwards adding debt obligations, but the acreage was transferred to Bryan Academy for $1 on June 30, 2016, according to a acreage almanac in Rhea County.
Bryan Academy would afresh charter the acreage aback to NACA to abide operations.
“We ahead a continued and advantageous accord with NACA that continues to accomplish a aberration in today’s apple through administration the acceptable account of Jesus Christ,” Livesay told the Rhea County Herald-News in an commodity announcement the transfer.
Dave Sekura, controlling administrator of Fort Bluff Affected afresh and now, accepted the affiliation at the time, adage the two organizations would “help anniversary added ability mission objectives.”
In June 2016, afterwards the NACA lath agreed to the acreage transfer, Livesay said he could no best serve on NACA’s lath because of a battle of interest, according to affair notes. In January 2017, Livesay stepped bottomward from arch the board.
When asked why there was not a battle of absorption afore or during the acreage transfer, Bryan Academy told the Times Free Press the academy has “continued to altercate and chase the admonition of alien acknowledged admiral and absolute banking auditors to adviser its efforts.
“As continued as Bryan Academy and NACA aggregate agnate Christian mission-oriented visions and had no advancing or abiding banking obligations to anniversary other, no battle of absorption existed amid the two organizations,” the academy said in a statement. “Once Bryan Academy affected NACA’s debt and NACA entered into a charter for the camp, the accord changed. Already the parties became freeholder and addressee Dr. Livesay absitively to footfall down.”
Stophel denied any atrocity with the architecture of the board, citation his added than 50 years of acquaintance practicing law. Overlap amid nonprofit or accumulated boards is normal, he told the Times Free Press, and said, “if there’s abounding disclosure, there’s annihilation amiss with it.”
THE NUCLEAR OPTION
Ballinger was accustomed with Fort Bluff Affected afterwards accepting a able airy acquaintance there while on a men’s retreat in 2010. His eyes still breach up aback he talks about it. He had retired from the Army, and while in the camp’s dining hall, his pastor challenged him to go deeper, added committing himself to Christ.
He never anticipation he would acknowledgment to the camp, he said, but leaders with the NACA lath requested assorted times in backward 2017 that he appear and conduct a accident appraisal of the organization.
He began acquisition documents, administering interviews, bribery emails and account bi-weekly articles.
His adventures at the affected and seeing hundreds of kids appear through the programs to accept their own religious adventures motivated him to booty a added alive role in the dispute.
What he began to bare abashed him, he said. Why had the admiral of Bryan Academy been the administrator of NACA? Why did both organizations assignment with the aforementioned accounting firm? Why was there so abundant overlap amid the two boards, Ballinger wondered.
The admiral of NACA in aboriginal 2018, Vance Berger, additionally formed in the accounts administration at Bryan College. Berger active the accomplishment appointment the acreage and active a charter acceding in which NACA would pay Bryan Academy $10,000 a ages and pay all aliment costs, account bills, taxes and allowance on the property.
The lath did not apprehend the after-effects of the accomplishments it had taken, Ballinger said. And by mid-2018, NACA’s lath had acquired to be about absolutely absolute from Bryan College.
Ballinger and the attorneys for NACA altercate the charter Berger active was not the aforementioned charter that was agreed aloft by the NACA board. An beforehand adaptation of the lease, acquired by the Times Free Press, would accept answerable NACA $1 a year and afterwards one year up to $120,000 a year alone aback Bryan Academy did not accept a absolute antithesis of at atomic $120,000 in net assets. According to that adaptation of the lease, NACA would be amenable for authoritative up the aberration of any account arrears up to $120,000.
In a June 24, 2016, email from Livesay to the NACA board, acquired by the Times Free Press, the academy admiral wrote, “There will be no hire if Bryan Academy ends the year in the atramentous (by any amount) and should there be a year aback that does not happen, NACA’s hire is alone the bulk of the arrears (because of depreciation) up to a best of $120K. Any accustomed basic advance at NACA will be an account for that abrasion rent.”
NACA’s cloister filings argued the acceding amounted to self-dealing and should not accept been accustomed to booty abode accustomed that four of the bristles bodies who voted for the alteration were either Bryan Academy admiral or were active by the college, which stood to financially accretion from the transaction, and the actuality who active the charter on account of NACA was a Bryan Academy agent abject to Livesay.
In its account to the Times Free Press, Bryan Academy said NACA’s altercation about the alteration charter has been alone in court.
“Bryan Academy showed that at atomic bristles of NACA’s lath associates were provided a archetype of the charter afore either affair active it, and none of them objected to its terms,” the academy said.
The academy did not acknowledge to a catechism from the Times Free Press about which bristles lath associates were abreast on the lease, which two were not and why. The academy did not acknowledge to a catechism from the Times Free Press about whether the charter presented to the NACA lath was the aforementioned active by Berger weeks later.
Tax annal appearance Bryan Academy accomplished 2016 with a net accumulation of about $4.9 million. J. Wayne Cropp, a Bryan Academy trustee who accommodated in 2017 over Livesay’s conduct as president, declared in his abandonment letter that, afterwards the acreage transfer, Bryan Academy would accept concluded the year with a above account deficit.
“Due to contempo accomplishments apropos Bryan Academy and the National Affiliation of Christian Athletes I accept appear to achieve that I accept not been effective, and cannot be able in the future, in captivation the administration of Bryan Academy answerable to assertive attempt that I accede important for a not-for-profit academy and abnormally a Christian institution,” Cropp wrote at the time.
In a June 2, 2016, email from Livesay to Cropp, acquired by the Times Free Press, Livesay wrote the college’s account arrears at the time was about $1 actor but, he wrote, “The allowance from NACA will be in the $2-3M net ambit and will added than account the accepted arrears so that we will end the year in the black.”
In its account to the Times Free Press, Bryan Academy denied that the acreage alteration was fabricated to balance the school’s banking standing. The academy said it took on about $1 actor in debt from NACA and that the organization’s tax annal are public.
“These letters acknowledge that Bryan Academy has been and charcoal in a able banking position which is one of the key affidavit why NACA approved to abandon ascendancy of the admiral and acreage to the college,” Bryan Academy said in its statement.
In cloister filings, NACA argues Bryan Academy aloft Livesay’s bacon from $225,000 to $250,000 and provided him a $15,000 benefit several months afterwards the transfer. Bryan College, in its cloister filings, denies the accession or benefit was at all accompanying to the acreage deal.
NACA additionally alleges in cloister filings that Bryan Academy addled the IRS about its banking affairs with NACA. In its aboriginal 990 tax anatomy from the year the acreage alteration occurred, Bryan Academy declared it was not allotment of any transaction with addition alignment in which a accepted or above Bryan Academy officer, director, trustee or key agent served in a agnate position at the added organization. Bryan Academy additionally told the IRS it did not accept added than $25,000 in non-cash contributions that year.
In its aboriginal tax filings from 2016, acquired by the Times Free Press, Bryan Academy appears to accept apparent the acreage alteration as acquirement from “federated campaigns” and not from a accompanying alignment or addition anatomy of contribution.
Ballinger accent these tax issues in a December 2018 letter to Bryan Academy account his affair with the acreage transfer.
In January 2019, Bryan Academy submitted an adapted acknowledgment to the IRS in which the academy declared the $6 actor acreage alteration as a non-cash contribution. The adapted acknowledgment did not agenda NACA as a accompanying alignment at the time.
In its account to the Times Free Press, Bryan Academy said it “fully complied with federal and accompaniment advertisement requirements in tax documentation. Bryan College’s 990[s] are about available.”
When asked whether the 2019 alteration to the 990 was accompanying to buying of the Fort Bluff Camp, Bryan Academy said in a statement, “the abstracts allege for themselves.”
Organizations in times of crisis generally about-face to the actuality address bad account to ask what they should do, Ballinger said.
He became admiral of the alignment in 2018 and led attempts to accommodated with Bryan Academy to disentangle what had been done. Those attempts were rebuffed. As he saw it, the academy was not accommodating to appear to the table, so added advancing activity bare to be taken.
“There’s a acceptance in the apple of allowance and law that if you are advantageous something, you accede to it,” Ballinger said.
In May 2018, NACA chock-full advantageous hire to the college. It additionally chock-full advantageous the severance amalgamation for the Crains.
In a 13-page letter beatific to Bryan Academy in December 2018 answer the decision, Ballinger wrote the academy should acquiesce an absolute third affair to analysis the annal of the two organizations. He declared NACA as a “sister Christian organization” to Bryan College.
“Our address is two-fold: first, we address that Bryan Academy abandon from its [threatened] acknowledged accomplishments adjoin NACA; and, second, we respectfully ask that Bryan Academy acknowledgment the Fort Bluff Affected acreage assets and liabilities to NACA,” Ballinger wrote in December 2018.
In January 2019, Bryan Academy filed clothing in Rhea County adjoin NACA for $90,000 in contributed rent.
So far, NACA has begin few victories in its acknowledged battles to get the affected back.
In April 2019, Rhea County General Sessions Cloister Adjudicator Shannon Garrison sided with Bryan Academy and awarded the academy the acreage and $120,000 in contributed rent. NACA appealed the cardinal to the ambit court.
NACA’s advocate argued the basal transaction that created the charter acceding was counterfeit with bright conflicts of interest, so NACA should not be answerable to account the lease. NACA argued the charter acceding active by its then-president, additionally an agent of Bryan College, were not the acceding the admiral was presented aback it agreed to it.
In its filings, NACA declared the accomplishments of Bryan Academy as “unfair, inadequate, backbreaking and improper.”
At the aforementioned time, NACA argued architecture projects on the acreage should be accustomed to account any rental payments, admitting the active charter that said such improvements would become assets of Bryan College.
The advocate for Bryan College, Anthony “Bud” Jackson of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, argued in cloister that NACA paid the rental bulk on the charter for almost two years afore alleging annihilation was wrong. The majority of NACA’s allegations adjoin Bryan Academy were fabricated afterwards the one-year statute of limitations to accompany such a case, Jackson said, and the admiral was aggravating aggregate it could to accept a case.
“You can try to bandy aggregate you appetite adjoin the bank and see if article sticks, but annihilation sticks,” Jackson said, according to a audition transcript.
Stophel, who ahead served as acknowledged admonition for Bryan, told the Times Free Press it was a “bad situation” for new administration to try and attenuate agreements fabricated afore they were in charge.
“For addition to appear aback and say you’ve done me amiss aback you’ve got adored by them is a little far-fetched,” Stophel said.
In an October 2020 audition afore the ambit court, NACA’s advocate argued the case was “essentially activity and death” for the admiral accustomed the banking accident it has taken on beneath the charter acceding and the acknowledged fight. The admiral has added than 60 full- or part-time employees, three of whom alive on the affected property, and about 8,500 accouchement are appointed to appointment the affected in 2022, according to cloister annal filed by NACA.
In response, Jackson told the adjudicator NACA should accept been extenuative money during its acknowledged challenges.
“If it’s absolutely activity and afterlife for NACA, it’s NACA’s own doing,” Jackson said.
The adjudicator absolved NACA’s counter-complaint because the one-year statute of limitations had anesthetized and said NACA bare to sue its own lath members, not Bryan College, for whatever delinquency was alleged.
In May, the adjudicator sided with Bryan Academy for the acreage and $370,000 in contributed rent. The adjudicator said there was a accurate charter acceding amid the two parties and NACA was answerable to pay aback rent, and Bryan Academy was to be accustomed control of the acreage in 60 days.
Ballinger told the Times Free Press he acquainted his alignment was not accustomed to present important affirmation or catechism key players in the transaction and charter agreement.
“The adjudicator says he apprehend everything. If you apprehend that,” Ballinger said, pausing several abnormal afore speaking again, “I don’t apperceive how you could apprehend what I’ve apprehend and apparent what I’ve apparent and be candid and aloof and not say article needs to be formed out, instead of you owe them, you pay them all the attorney’s fees or get out of this place. It defies argumentation and reason.”
Ballinger holds out achievement for the address action to do what he believes is the appropriate thing.
NACA appealed its case to the Eastern Division of the Tennessee Cloister of Appeals in July, arguing Bryan Academy withheld or delayed accouterment accordant advice to beforehand hearings and that the cloister did not accede all the accordant facts of the case.
Ballinger said he is agitated with how abundant money is actuality spent on acknowledged teams to activity article two Christian organizations should be able to assignment out. The two organizations could accept a abounding relationship, he said, alike if that meant him dispatch bottomward already the affected is alternate to NACA’s possession.
“We could potentially assignment calm and absolutely abutment one addition with sports and tournaments and bodies that appear actuality absolutely acceptable academy acceptance at Bryan at some point or their kids actuality attorneys here,” Ballinger said. “I see so abundant befalling for the two organizations to assignment calm — being, what, 5 afar from anniversary added — that’s actuality ashen over all this.”
Robin Derryberry, whose close Derryberry Accessible Relations represents Bryan College, told the Times Free Press, “Each time this affair has been brought afore a court, the cloister has sided with Bryan College, afterwards exception. We’re attractive advanced to putting this affair to blow and affective advanced with a new affiliate for the acreage and for Bryan College.”
The case is afore the Tennessee Cloister of Appeals, admitting briefings accept not yet been filed or a audition scheduled.
Disclosure: Anthony “Bud” Jackson of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, PC, advises the Times Free Press on acknowledged affairs but was not complex in that accommodation for this story.
Contact Wyatt Massey at [email protected] or 423-757-6249. Chase him on Twitter @news4mass.
How To Write A Mission Statement For A Nonprofit – How To Write A Mission Statement For A Nonprofit
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