November 20, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
P.G. County paid $3.4 million to anti-gay religious group
Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Bishop Harry Jackson (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Beltsville, Md.-based religious organization headed by Bishop Harry Jackson, who led campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage laws in D.C. and Maryland, received more than $3.4 million in rental income over a five-year period from the Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Under terms established in two leases, the P.G. County Public Schools rented 35,000 square feet of office space from September 2007 to August 2012 in an office building at 6251 Ammendale Road in Beltsville. The Blade obtained copies of the leases through a Maryland Public Information Act request.

P.G. County land records show that the building is owned by Christian Hope Ministries, Inc., for which Jackson serves as president. The building is also home to Hope Christian Church, where Jackson serves as pastor.

Briant Coleman, a spokesperson for P.G. County Public Schools, said the decision to rent office space at the Ammendale Road building was made by the school system’s former superintendent, John Deasy, who currently serves as superintendent of the Los Angeles Public School System.

Coleman said neither he nor the P.G. schools’ current superintendent, Alvin Crawley, know why Deasy selected the office building owned by Christian Hope Ministries other than that the building and rental agreement met the school system’s criteria for doing business with a vendor.

“Based on the best and final offer, we would make a determination as to whether or not a vendor can provide services we need and whether or not it was the most reasonable price available,” Coleman said.

Deasy, who left the P.G. Public Schools in 2008, didn’t immediately respond to a call and email sent to his Los Angeles office.

Jackson also didn’t return a call or respond to an email seeking comment this week.

Jackson and Deasy each signed the two leases. Also signing them was Gary W. Michael, who at the time was president of NAI Michael Companies, a property management and lease brokerage firm that Jackson retained to find a tenant for the section of the building that the church doesn’t use.

Michael, reached Monday at his office in Lanham, Md., said he recalls that the school system responded to a public listing his company issued announcing the availability of the office space for rent.

“I don’t have to support someone in every aspect for me to do business with them,” Michael said when asked if he knew of Jackson’s efforts to defeat marriage equality laws.

According to Michael, Christian Hope Ministries has a mortgage on the building. Land records show the organization paid $8.55 million for the building in February 2005.

“With their expenses and paying the mortgage there may not be a whole lot left over,” he said referring to the rental income.

One of the leases was for 30,000 square feet of office space on the second floor of the two-story building. The other was for 5,000 square feet of office space located on the building’s first floor.

The base rent was the same in both leases – $18.20 per square foot for the first year, with an annual increase of 3.5 percent. The 30,000-square-foot lease began in 2007 with a monthly rent of $45,500, with $546,000 to be paid the first year. In the fifth year, the school system was to pay $626,400 for the 30,000-square-foot space and $104,425 for the 5,000-square-foot lease if the school system remained in the building for the full fifth year.

In addition to what the leases described as the “base” rent, the leases called for the school system to pay 100 percent of the building’s property taxes, 41 percent of the building’s maintenance expenses, 48 percent of “all bills” for electricity, gas and water used on the premises along with sewer charges, and 41 percent of the total premium for fire and extended coverage insurance.

The leases also call for Christian Hope Ministries to pay a 6 percent leasing commission to NAI The Michael Companies on “all gross rent paid by tenant” during the full term of the leases and any renewals or extensions of the leases. The Michael Companies, among other things, were to collect the rent from the P.G. County Public Schools and disburse it to Jackson’s group after deducting the commission, according to the terms of leases.

An online listing shows that Jackson is currently looking for a new tenant in the building.

Peter Montgomery, an official with People for the American Way, an LGBT supportive group that monitors religious right organizations that oppose LGBT rights, including Jackson’s organizations, said he was unaware that the P.G. County Public Schools rented space in Jackson’s building.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with a church generating income from a business enterprise,” Montgomery said.

“There would be a problem if the county rented that space as a favor to Jackson,” he said.

Guidestar.com is an organization that monitors charities and provides access to IRS 990 reports that most charitable organizations with a tax exemption are required to file each year. According to Guidestar, Christian Hope Ministries is registered with the IRS as a church and is exempt from having to file a 990 reporting form.

“Revenue and expense data are not available for this organization,” Guidestar states on its website.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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