First AME Church Wins 5-Year Battle Over Community Development Arm
Last week, First AME Church announced that the five-year battle over control of its non-profit community development arm, FAME Assistance Corporation, has ended. On July 6, 2016, the court issued a judgment in favor of First AME Church, invalidating the 2012 changing of the bylaws, providing for the new pastor of First AME Church to serve as CEO; and allowing the church to elect new board members/directors to manage and operate the programs and services.
The defendants, having lost the lawsuit in the lower court, filed an appeal. On October 10, 2017, the appellate court "fully affirmed" the judgment of the lower court, returning the assets of 325 units of low-income housing, a diverse portfolio of real estate, and an assortment of public benefits service programs back to the management and operation of First AME Church of Los Angeles. FAME Assistance Corporation was organized under the leadership of former pastor Rev. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray, after the 1992 rebellion, to provide services to the community. “Upon Rev. Murray’s retirement, a new pastoral administration was appointed to lead First AME Church and the FAME Corporations,” said Senior Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, surrounded by members of the leadership of First AME Church. “The new regime took the non-profit in a different direction, separating it from the local church, against the protocol of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. That pastor and his administration changed the bylaws of the non-profit corporations, effecting a separation of a diverse multi-million dollar public benefits corporation (FAC/FAME Housing) away from First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles. Many of the corporations and departments were altered, gutted or decimated, resulting in a decrease in services and a loss of esteem within the community. “The confusion caused in the interim, created tremendous turmoil within both the church and the community,” he continued. “Upon my assignment as the new pastor of First AME Church, in October 2012, the church’s Board of Trustees filed an action in Superior Court to take back the non-profit arm and associated entities. The resulting cases and appeals led to four years and 10 months of litigation and court appearances.” In his final decision, L.A. Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney ruled that “the procedures used to amend the bylaws of FAME Assistance and FAME Housing on October 19 and 20, 2012, were unfair, unreasonable and not performed in good faith.” The church’s legal win came at a steep price. In addition to sizeable legal fees, the FAME Assistance headquarters were sold in a leaseback to avert an impending foreclosure. QUOTE from Pastor Boyd Here regarding price of legal wrangling and whether or not damages were assessed. “We want the businesses and community organizations with which we have had stellar relationships to know that we look forward to continuing our work with them. We also want the community to know that we will be rebuilding some of our programs and expanding others and we look forward to continuing our services to the community.”