The church led by Charleston County School Board member Chris Collins knew seven months ago that its lease would end June 30, but the church is refusing to leave that space.
How eviction works
The procedure begins when a landlord files an application for ejectment with a magistrate.
The magistrate can issue a written order requiring the tenant to either vacate the premises or to show cause within 10 days why he should not be ejected.
If the tenant neither vacates the premises nor appears within the 10 days to show cause, the magistrate may then issue a written warrant of ejectment. The magistrate’s constable or sheriff may then proceed to the premises with the warrant and give the occupants 24 hours to vacate voluntarily.
If the tenant requests to show cause and give reasons why he should not be ejected, the magistrate will hold a trial to decide what should happen. The tenant can request a jury trial.
Source: S.C. Code of Laws
Collins gave the school district on Monday a rent check to cover use of the space for July, although Collins agreed in November with the board majority that the church’s lease should end in June.
The school district can’t just change the locks or security code to kick out the church; it must follow state eviction procedures that involve magistrate’s court.
The whole mess puts the district in the very awkward position of having to evict one of its own board members.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats. “This is a board member who demands the (board) majority’s decision be executed, but he feels like he should not be accountable to the same standard.”
Healing and Deliverance Church had hired attorney John Jackson, who sent a letter to the district’s attorney in May explaining the church’s intention to remain in the former Charlestowne Academy school building, pending negotiations for a new lease.
Jackson said on Tuesday that he wasn’t able to reach an agreement on attorney fees with the church, and he no longer was representing it.
The Post and Courier on Tuesday asked Collins why he turned in a rent check when the lease ended the previous week. Collins said he couldn’t speak with a reporter but could do an interview later this week.
“Maybe Friday,” he said. “I’ll let you know. I think Friday will work out.”
When pressed about why he couldn’t talk about the situation, Collins refused to answer questions and said “thank you very much, and have a nice day” before hanging up the phone.
The district hires lawyers for any issues involving trial work, and district attorney John Emerson said the district has retained counsel to ensure the board’s decision to terminate the lease is followed.
That means the district will end up spending taxpayers’ money on an attorney to enforce what Collins agreed to do.
“It’s incomprehensible,” Coats said.
District officials are trying to determine how much the church has used the space during the past few months so it can be billed appropriately. The lease allowed the church to use the building 16 hours per month for $664, but the church had been exceeding that limit.
The church received a $655 bill in February for using the space 16 hours more than the lease permitted during December and January, but the church hasn’t paid that fee.
The board decided to end the church’s lease in November after a number of apparent violations, including using the space more than allowed, failure to secure insurance, and allowing the space to be used for non-church-related activities such as charter school meetings, which is prohibited by the lease.
The former Charlestowne Academy costs $49,000 annually to maintain, and the church is the only group that uses the space. Board member Elizabeth Moffly said the district still will have to pay to maintain the space, regardless of whether Collins’ church is in it, so his church should be able to continue using it.
“There’s nothing illegal about what he’s done,” she said. “It’s the conflict of interest ... but there’s all kinds of conflicts of interests we could look at. We can give the space to whoever we want.”
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.