One of Summit County’s largest residential treatment facilities for men, FI Community Housing, is now empty after the board of directors ousted its founder.
Even if Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove sides with the board of FI Community Housing, which fired Executive Director Denny Wilson and now wants him and his wife, Kara, barred from the premises, the future looks bleak for the sober-living facility at 1445 Frederick Blvd. in West Akron.
Financially, the operation is a mess. According to documents cited in court Thursday, the organization’s bank account is negative. In fact, multiple accounts on the facility’s balance sheet have been negative all year.
In the past year, the nonprofit service organization — one of five or six that provide beds and counseling for men with drug or alcohol addiction — has fallen as much as five months behind on rent. The facility currently owes its landlord, the Summit County Land Bank, $3,502.88 for July and August, including penalties and fees. The Land Bank picked up a $6,850 unpaid property insurance bill, which also must be repaid.
That’s not the first time the organization has fallen behind on the insurance bill, said Land Bank Executive Director Patrick Bravo, who was called to the stand Thursday in the dispute over who’s in charge at FI: board chairman Recarlton Buchanan or Wilson, a recovering addict who founded the organization in 2011.
The IRS is after FI for about $51,000 in unpaid taxes and, according to attorneys in the case, the city of Akron won a judgment Wednesday against FI for failing to withhold $1,165.85 in municipal income taxes.
FI was in dire financial straits two years ago before the Land Bank and county officials stepped in to help, in part, by providing a new facility with cheaper rent. A Land Bank official sat on FI’s board to oversee finances. He stepped down in May as an ugly power struggle emerged — Wilson and his trusted staff members clashing with Buchanan and a new board of directors, which increased in size from 11 to 19 members in June.
“This has been a hostile takeover. That’s what it’s been,” said Wilson’s attorney, Charles Tyler.
Buchanan joined the board in May, Wilson said.
At the end of July, Wilson testified that there was about $4,300 left in FI’s bank account — enough to cover last month's expenses and the August installment of the outstanding IRS bill. But the money was gone when his wife went to the bank late last month. And neither the municipal income tax bill, the late rent, the delinquent IRS charges or at least six months in back property taxes have been paid, according to public records and Bravo, who changed the locks and secured the property Wednesday.
Bravo executed a clause in the lease that gives FI 30 days to come up with the $10,352 in missed rent and insurance checks. The facility’s last resident was transferred to another agency Wednesday, leaving FI with no income from the Summit County ADM (Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health) Services Board.
The ADM board holds two housing and service contracts with FI, including one that runs through June 2020. The county agency is withholding a final payment of $5,280 from FI because of a lack of documentation. Buchanan's attorney, Ed Gilbert, said the Wilsons stole those documents along with furniture and computers.
Officials looking in on the turmoil can’t figure out who’s really in charge: Wilson or Buchanan.
ADM Board Executive Director Gerald Craig, also called Thursday to testify, said that in order to determine who to pay for the FI contract, he asked Buchanan to provide organizational by-laws and meeting minutes from the day five board members were ousted and the Wilsons were fired.
The minutes are signed and dated for July 25, but the final vote wasn’t taken until July 28. And one member listed as absent is recorded as abstaining from the vote, meaning the member was present but decided not to cast a vote.
Adding to the confusion, Craig said board membership rosters provided by Buchanan don’t match. “I’m sort of stuck as to how I’m supposed to proceed,” said Craig, who looked to Judge Cosgrove for clarity.
Cosgrove said her narrow scope in the preliminary injunction case is not to determine the legality of the board’s actions but whether Wilson and his wife, who handled billing for FI, should be barred from the property.
Craig criticized behavior on both sides. He said he’s not sure that Buchanan, who he said intimidated residents by recording them and filed what police characterized as “false reports," had the authority to terminate the Wilsons.
Bravo gave a new set of keys to Buchanan after changing the locks, but he’s not entirely sure whom to deal with, either.
Cosgrove rejected Tyler’s request to toss out the preliminary injunction against the Wilsons. The judge told both attorneys, who began arguing on Tuesday before resuming Thursday, to wrap it up. A sheriff’s deputy poked his head in after 5 p.m. to say that officers were ready to escort everyone out, if needed.
Cosgrove called attorneys Tyler and Gilbert into her chambers but was unable to help them settle. She'll take their closing arguments in writing by Monday and then render a decision, which could be moot if FI loses its home and income.
“If this place is going to be defunct and no longer provide services, then I think both sides lose,” Cosgrove said. “Maybe it was wrong the way it went down,” she said. “Maybe in hindsight, people on both sides could have acted better."
Reach Doug Livingston at email@example.com or 330-996-3792.