Warnock a Slum Lord?
Can Senator Raphael Warnock now add the dastardly title of “slum lord” to his resumé? Warnock, a Democrat who has campaigned as an ally of low-income Georgians and those with disabilities, is under serious scrutiny for the evictions of tenants from his churchowned, low-income apartment complex in Atlanta. One lawsuit, which resulted in a court-ordered eviction, was over just $28.55 in past-due rent. Tenants Evicted During Pandemic
A dozen eviction lawsuits were filed against Columbia Tower, an apartment building that caters to the “chronically homeless” and those with “mental disabilities.” Tenants filed lawsuits throughout the course of the coronavirus pandemic; first in February 2020, and most recently in September 2022. The lawsuits were filed about the same time that Warnock attacked his political opponents for failing to safeguard struggling Georgians against pandemic-era evictions. All of the tenants that Warnock’s church wanted to be removed were only late one month on their rent. According to court filings, residents have defended themselves by pointing out their landlord’s eviction tactics. “If you don’t pay your rent by the fifth, a dispossessory notice comes out that week,” one resident said. “They won’t accept the payment after the fifth.”
Another two residents said they offered to pay rent on or before their due date but the building refused receipt. One resident told the magistrate he was locked out of his apartment for one night after his lock was changed, but was not given a notice to vacate. Pests, Filth, and Broken Elevators
In addition to eviction threats, residents of Columbia Tower have complained that they are plagued by pests, maintenance problems, and filth, and at least two people have sued this year after the elevator allegedly collapsed on them. The residents said garbage is left to pile up in the storage rooms for days, creating an 'overwhelming trash smell,' common areas aren’t maintained, and the air vents produce a 'sickening' amount of dust. Tenants also said the elevators often break down, and handicapped residents have had to call the fire department to carry them to their rooms.
Warnock is the senior pastor and CEO of Ebenezer Baptist Church. The church, through Ebenezer Building Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, is 99% owner of Columbia Tower at MLK Village in downtown Atlanta. Warnock receives a salary and a $7,417 monthly housing allowance from the church, an arrangement that allows him to circumvent federal limits on outside income for U.S. Senators. Financial statements from 2021 show the church possesses liquid assets of more than $1.2 million.
Ebenezer Building Foundation identifies Warnock as its principal officer, but according to records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, it is not clear what Warnock’s role was in overseeing Columbia Tower. A repair grant for which Ebenezer Building Foundation filed in June said that Warnock “works closely” with Ebenezer’s executive pastor” in managing the overall vision, ministries, and operations of the church. On October 12, the Securities and Charities Division in the Georgia Secretary of State Office sent a letter to Ebenezer Building Foundation demanding that the charity explain why it is operating in the state without an active registration. The Foundation has reported since 2011 that it is registered to operate as a charity in Georgia, but the Division contends the charity is not registered with state authorities — which could subject it to administrative penalties.
From 2011 through 2020, the Foundation reported receiving $2.8 million in charitable contributions, $4.1 million in program service reve- continued from page
nue, and $847,000 in “other revenue,” according to its IRS Form 990 filings.
In June 2022, Ebenezer Building Foundation applied for a $5 million grant from the state of Georgia to fund repairs at Columbia Tower.
The Georgia Securities and Charities Division gave Ebenezer Building Foundation until November 2 to provide evidence showing why it is exempt from registering with the Secretary of State and is 'therefore not in violation of the Act and Rules.'
The National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the IRS demanding an audit of Warnock's church for concealing its 99% ownership stake in Columbia Tower through a shell company called MLK Village Corporation, which shares the same address as the church.
As he attacks his Republican opponent Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate race, Warnock appears to have a lot of cleaning up to do around his own front door.
In the midst of the tenants’ woes, Herschel Walker has offered to pay rent for anyone facing eviction by Warnock's church. Now, that is truly Christian charity.