Attorneys for Emanuel AME Church have responded to a lawsuit filed by a shooting victim’s husband seeking an accounting of millions of dollars in donations that poured into the church after a June massacre left nine worshippers dead.
The response filed by attorney Wilbur Johnson denies the church “has neither been transparent nor forthcoming with information” about the donations, as the suit alleges.
“At all times referenced, the Defendant acted in good faith and in a reasonable manner,” the answer states.
Mullins McLeod, attorney for victim Cynthia Hurd’s husband, Arthur, filed the lawsuit in October on behalf of her estate to keep the money from being dispersed until the families’ attorneys can be sure it is going where it was intended. It asks a judge to place a hold on the donations “until a full accounting has been accomplished.”
Hurd has said that shortly after the shooting, he saw women in the church open letters addressed to victims’ families and remove large amounts of cash and checks.
However, the answer filed several weeks ago contends the plaintiff cannot show church officials violated their fiduciary duty and asks a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
Attorneys for both sides reached an agreement outside of court that says the church must provide documents related to the donations, data it provided to its accounting firm and documents that firm produces. The agreement applies only to money the church placed into its Moving Forward Campaign fund.
The money cannot be dispersed until attorneys for Hurd have inspected the documents.
Filings in the lawsuit reveal conflicting views of what has happened to the money.
The church’s former secretary, Althea Latham, said she saw donations “being mismanaged.” After she expressed her concerns, church officials ended Latham’s employment, her affidavit says.
Yet church treasurer Rosetta Singleton said in her affidavit that she wasn’t aware of money being handled improperly.
Last month, church officials announced how they will divide up $3.4 million in the Moving Forward fund. Families of the nine victims and five survivors will split $1.5 million. The church will keep $1.9 million.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 843-937-5563 or follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes.