Politics & Government

Lawsuit claims Beverly’s fraud led to Douglass House demolition

A new lawsuit says state Rep. James Beverly’s fraud and deceit led a businessman to buy the Douglass House and ultimately tear it down to make room for a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot.

Now, the restaurant’s developer wants Beverly to pay for costs of demolishing the historic home plus penalties. In all, the total is more than $310,000.

D&D Middle GA LLC, owned by Dunkin’ Donuts entrepreneur Lou Patel, says in the lawsuit that Patel bought the Douglass House only because Beverly promised to get it moved within 60 days. Efforts to move the house crumbled even in the wake of the demolition of Tremont Temple Baptist Church, which was razed earlier this year to clear the way for the doughnut shop. The property is across from the Medical Center, Navicent Health, on Pine Street.

According to the lawsuit filed in Bibb County Superior Court, Beverly, a Macon Democrat, had a “scheme to fraudulently induce” Patel to buy the house that included him making promises on behalf of the Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority and saying he had the money to move the house this past summer.

“(Beverly) well knew when he made the aforesaid representations that they were false and that (Patel) intended to purchase the Property in reliance upon said false representations,” the lawsuit said.

J. Wayne Crowley, the attorney for Patel, said Patel would not have bought the property if the house wasn’t going to get moved.

Beverly said Monday he had not been served a copy of the lawsuit. When The Telegraph told him about it, he searched for words, then repeated the word “wow” three times.

Later, after Beverly reviewed a copy of the lawsuit, he said he would be speaking will his lawyers Tuesday.

He denied being part of a fraud or being deceitful. He also said he was working with others to relocate the building or adapt it for another use.

“I am terribly disappointed in the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts, that he would have the audacity to tear down our temple, tear down a historic structure that could have been saved, and to take it one step farther to tear down a representative that’s trying to do the best for the community,” Beverly said. “That’s saying a lot about who he is.”

The Douglass House was the former home of Charles Douglass, a black businessman credited with having the Douglass Theatre built downtown. Patel’s business closed on the property June 13, paying $200,000 for it, according to the Macon-Bibb County Board of Tax Assessors.

The lawsuit relies in part on what it calls a contract signed between Patel and Beverly, which consists largely of a single paragraph of text called a “Memorandum of Understanding.” It claims to summarize a discussion between the two men, with Patel offering the house to the Macon-Bibb Community Enhancement Authority in cooperation with the Historic Macon Foundation. Patel agreed to contribute $20,000 toward the relocation of the building.

“The house will have to be moved no later than 60 days from April 15, 2014,” according to the agreement provided by Crowley’s office.

The lawsuit claims that Patel ultimately “was required to demolish the Douglass House, because (Beverly) failed and refused to move it.” That led to costs of more than $60,000, mostly demolition, Crowley told The Telegraph.

Patel is also seeking $250,000 in punitive damages because “the false representations of (Beverly) as set forth herein show willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantoness (sic), oppression, or an entire want of care which raises the presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences.”

Crowley said Beverly will have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit after he has been served.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.