Disgruntled Pontiac church members sue for return of donation
Pontiac — An Oakland County couple is suing St. John Methodist Church, its reverend and officials claiming their personal $41,000 donation dedicated for a fellowship hall has been used for other, unknown purposes.
Eugene Rogers and Jeanette Campbell Rogers, both medical professionals and former active church members, allege they donated the money for use in a restricted fund, but after it was not used for a hall, church officials have refused to return the money.
“The funds, donated over a period of years, were intended to build a fellowship hall but that never happened and they want their money back,” said attorney Cyril Hall, who filed the lawsuit this week. “We aren’t saying anyone embezzled it. We just don’t know where the funds are and my clients want it back.”
Among those specified in the Oakland Circuit Court complaint are the Rev. Lester Magnum; Brenda Street, head of the church’s finance division; Randolph Whiters, chairman of the administrative counsel at the church; and other church members.
The church, with a congregation of about 126 members, is at 620 University Drive in Pontiac.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants conspired to take the donation and “both individually and collectively stole” the money and converted the property to their own use.
“There is still a fund, I think it was started around 15 years ago, and some of it has been used for the improvement and the safety at the church,” Magnum said. “A fund still exists but not for a specific construction purpose. “
Magnum said Rogers “doesn’t even have the records to show how much he donated.”
“This is about how he interprets what the fund was for — he seems to think it was for an extension of a separate building but no one ever said anything like that, there was no plan or anything written like that,” Magnum said. “It was not a fund for just something outside the church. It was intended for use inside.
“The problem is this is something that should be worked out and instead this (lawsuit) happens.
“It’s like he wants to take his ball and bat and go home.”
Rogers, an obstetrician-gynecologist who is former chairman of the church’s board of trustees, said he and his wife, a pediatrician, donated the money as a restricted asset. He said that under church policy and bylaws if it is used for a purpose other than specified, the donor may ask for its return.
The lawsuit, which seeks triple damages under state law, has been assigned to Judge Phyllis McMillen.