September 12, 2017 10:31:59 AM
Isabelle Altman - firstname.lastname@example.org
Deacons at Second Baptist Church in Starkville have until Sept. 22 to turn over information from two bank accounts they opened, as well as the keys to the church building, to its board of trustees.
Judge Jim Kitchens rendered the latest ruling Monday in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court in a convoluted civil case over a stalled construction project that has pitted different factions of the Yeates Street church against one another.
During a contempt hearing Monday, Kitchens also ordered the church to turn over Pastor Joseph Stone's emails to the court to be used as evidence in the case.
Trustees filed the lawsuit in December 2015 against Stone and Head Deacon Terry Miller, as well as contractor Donald Crowther, over money paid to Crowther for a sanctuary that was never built. The plaintiffs are asking for $400,000, which trustees say Stone paid Crowther without the board having authorized it.
Crowther, of TCM Companies of Long Beach, has not done any work on the project since July 15 and is currently facing criminal charges of fraud.
In a July contempt hearing, trustees claimed Stone and Miller had authorized deacons to open two bank accounts to which trustees did not have access.
Though Kitchens did not hold the defendants in contempt, he did order them to give access to the accounts to trustees and the church's finance committee. However, as of Monday, that order had still not been followed, leading Kitchens to reassert it with a hard deadline.
"This is all invoices, all records, receipts, bank accounts, bank statements, check stubs, canceled checks," said Jackson attorney Dorsey Carson, who is representing the church trustees. "Everything."
Stone and Miller's attorney, William Starks of Columbus, did not respond to calls for comment from The Dispatch by press time.
No trial date has been set for the civil suit, according to Oktibbeha Circuit Court records. In July, Kitchens had said he hoped to have a trial by the end of the year.
Crowther's criminal trial is set for Nov. 1.