ELYRIA – A feud that has divided an Avon church and plunged the congregation into nearly a decade of legal fights could come to an end next week.
Visiting Judge Lynett McGough told both sides Tuesday that she will make a decision in the lawsuit June 13.
The two sides have been fighting over how almost $1.3 million in bingo proceeds raised when St. Clement of Ohrid Macedonian Orthodox Church was running bingo games from 1990 through 1998 should be spent.
A group that was voted out of office in church elections in 1995 has accused its successors of mishandling the money, spending it on Indians jackets, excessive door prizes and writing checks to themselves. About $200,000 was misspent during the three years before the bingo games were shut down after the old leadership sued the replacements, according to the lawsuit.
The old guard also had questioned about $400,000 in legal bills the church paid to defend itself and its leadership from the lawsuit and sought to review the books, but it never was given a satisfactory explanation for how all of the money was spent, said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric Zagrans.
“There’s just so many things wrong with handling money in this way,” he said during closing arguments.
But Edward Markovich, the attorney representing the new regime, has said his clients were hounded by false allegations because the old guard didn’t want to spend money to build a new church in North Olmsted. He urged McGough to rule in his clients’ favor and find they weren’t liable.
“The litigation has gone on for too long,” he said. “It’s time to bring it to an end.”
The legal fight also involved threats, excommunications of dissident members and complaints to police. A third group of leaders was elected in 2003, after the archbishop of the world wide church ordered an election be held in an effort to resolve the dispute.
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