ATLANTA -- Internal turmoil at an Atlanta church could impact the state's ability to build a new stadium south of the Georgia Dome. A church faction filed a lawsuit against the church leadership last summer, as plans ramped up to build a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome.
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The church is Mt. Vernon Baptist. Its property, at Northside Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, sits squarely in the site the state and city want for the new billion dollar stadium approved last week. A lawsuit filed last summer hints at a bitter power struggle that may still be underway in a church that needs to decide collectively whether to sell its property and give way to the project.
It started with pointed questions directed at Mt. Vernon's pastor, Rodney Turner. The questions for the pastor appeared in an April 2012 letter from the chairman of the Deacon's ministry, Willie Bozeman. One of the questions asks about a thirty percent increase in Rev. Turner's salary, and "who approved" it.
A few days later, Bozeman and another Deacon sued -- accusing the church leadership of "fraud and deceit," and demanding financial information.
The suit divided the church. When state officials met with the church members to discuss purchasing the property, they actually met with separate church factions, according to a spokeswoman for the Georgia World Congress Center.
The church removed one of the plaintiffs from its Board of Trustees, and changed the locks on the building. In October, a court dismissed the suit, saying the dissenting faction was unable to prove fraud.
The church's division is a potential complication in the state's negotiations to buy Mt Vernon, which is valued by the Fulton County property tax commissioner's office at nearly $1.5 million. We reached Willie Bozeman, one of the plaintiffs. Though he's no longer a deacon, he says he's still a member of the church and declined further comment.
Neither Pastor Turner nor his attorney responded to requests for comment.