Lutimothy May wants to sell the church that his father and mother built on 1213 W Blount Street, near Baptist Hospital and Morris Court.
When you drive by the building, which is now home to Friendship Primitive Baptist Church (no relation to Lutimothy May and his wife’s congregation), you notice that Rev Theophalis May died before he could finish adding the brick facade on the west side of the church. The cinder block wall is still exposed.
The ownership of the old church was and is in the hands of trustees, not a corporation. Lutimothy May was only one of those trustees.
Lutimothy May moved his church congregation – Friendship Missionary Baptist – to Strong Street in 2013. His second wife Ebony May became the executive pastor. According to the once-daily newspaper, the congregation dropped from more than 1,500 members to 300-500.
Earlier this year, three of the four trustees of the 1215 W. Blount Street property (the church built and renovated by Theophalis and Mary May) met. Lutimothty May was invited but declined to attend. The trustees voted to transfer the property to a newly-formed non-profit.
Lutimothy May ran to the Pensacola News Journal’s editorial board and alleged the trustees – which included his brother Lumon May – had committed title fraud. The PNJ leadership decided to put the charges on the front page of its Sunday edition, giving it three pages.
Yesterday, I met with Escambia County Property Appraiser Chris Jones, who told me that disputes among church boards aren’t uncommon -“Ministers and trustees leave or pass away, and the church records aren’t always the best. When the names don’t match on the old and new documents, we notify the parties and have an attorney review them.”
He’s never heard of one side of a church property dispute charging the other with fraud.
Jones shared that the old church on Blount Street had four trustees on the records. Three of the four signed for the transfer – but Lutimothy May didn’t – that’s why Jones asked for a legal review.
“But, Rick, Lutimothy would have same the issue when he tried to transfer the title to a buyer,” said Jones. “He needed the signatures of Lumom and the other trustees.”
No matter if the property appraiser’s attorney decides to accept the transfer from the group led by Lumon and his sister LaRuby May, Jones expects the issue is headed to court.
“Our office is not the end-all when it comes to who owns the property,” said Jones. “That’s for a judge to decide.”
The property appraiser said that he told the PNJ reporter the same thing and added, “I tried to tell him this is a non-story.”
Jones said he didn’t receive any calls from the PNJ executive Lisa Savage or any other newspaper editorial board member before the story ran.
Another note: The PNJ included in its article that a county employee witnessed Lumon May’s signature, and his aide, who retired from the county a year ago, notarized the signature: “Neighborhood and Human Services Director Clara Long signed the deeds as a witness and Aretta Green, who used to work directly for Commissioner May at the county as his official aide, notarized the two documents.”
I’ve asked three attorneys what law did Long and Green violate, and they couldn’t name one. The News Journal includes the paragraph without explaining why it’s relevant. It seems the newspaper repeated whatever Lutimothy May told them about his brother Lumon without verifying if Long and Green broke the law.