Receiver named for ex-Mt. Pleasant official’s firm

Bryson

Another property management firm in the Charleston region is embroiled in a lawsuit involving alleged financial improprieties.

The latest complaint focuses on a Mount Pleasant business owner who ran for Town Council last year and who abruptly resigned from the town’s Planning Commission the day the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit, filed by the Richmond Luke Revocable Trust in Charleston County, alleges Benjamin B. Bryson defaulted on a $330,000 loan from the late Dick Luke, who sold the Dick Luke Co. to Bryson in 1999. It also alleges Bryson misappropriated company funds.

A judge has appointed Carolina One Real Estate as the receiver to take over the company and oversee the 77 rental properties it manages, according to court records.

“We are taking all necessary steps to preserve and properly account for your rental property income and take care of your tenants’ needs,” Carolina One said in an email to Dick Luke Co. clients. “You can rest assured that we take our responsibility assigned by the court very seriously and we will do everything in our power to help you navigate through this time of uncertainty.”

According to the allegations, Bryson tried to sell the company last month to a buyer who said in an affidavit that he dropped the deal based on financial irregularities and possible misappropriation of funds.

Bryson on Tuesday downplayed the lawsuit and said he was working through the company’s issues. He would not comment on allegations of financial impropriety.

“It’s nothing we can’t get through,” Bryson said of the lawsuit. “If anyone is owed, we will address it.”

The lawsuit says Bryson agreed to repay the debt through monthly installments over 20 years and secured the loan with his 200 shares of stock in the Dick Luke Co. Luke died in 2003, and the loan was assigned to a trust in his name.

According to the lawsuit, the payments stopped in October, and Bryson owes more than $175,000 on the loan.

Court documents say Bryson tried to sell the company in March to Charleston Real Estate Cafe LLC, a property rental management company. While looking into the finances at Bryson’s company, the president of the prospective buyer, Tim Rash, said in an affidavit that he learned of “substantial financial irregularities in the management of the company by Bryson.” The suit points out “missing tenant security deposits and unaccounted for rent payments from tenants to property owners.”

“Based on the information I saw in my review of the books and records of Dick Luke Co., I am informed and believe the rents collected by Bryson and the profits of Dick Luke Co. over which Bryson has charge have been misappropriated,” Rash said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit.

Bryson discounted Rash’s allegations, saying Rash was trying to acquire the company by any means.

“He can allege anything he wants to,” Bryson said. “He wants the company, and he’s trying to get the company, and he’s not going to get the company.”

Rash did not respond to a request for further comment about the lawsuit.

The Luke trust is seeking Bryson’s stock in the business and full repayment of the loan balance.

Bryson was a member of the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission when he launched an unsuccessful run for a Town Council seat last year. He announced his immediate resignation in a brief written message dated March 23 without an explanation. On Tuesday, Bryson, 51, said he is having some health problems as one of the reasons.

His professional profile on LinkedIn shows Bryson previously served on at least three other official government panels: the Charleston County Board of Assessment Appeals, the Mount Pleasant Workforce Housing Advisory Committee and the Mount Pleasant Board of Zoning Appeals.

Mayor Linda Page said Monday she was unaware of the lawsuit. She said Bryson told her a couple of days after resigning from the planning board that “he has a huge work schedule and would be out of town a lot for work.”

In a separate case in early March, dozens of homeowners’ groups sued Johns Island property management company, Marshland Communities, alleging owner Karen Colie misappropriated funds and billed some associations for services they never received. The court appointed a receiver to take over the company’s finances while litigation is pending.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.