A Royalton Road church filed suit Wednesday against three former trustees, saying they wrongly suspended worship at the church, barred the congregation from the property and tried to take over the building.
Shaker Heights attorney Alan H. Kraus filed the suit on behalf of the Apostolic Christian Church-Nazarene, Inc., a Parma Heights church formed in 1989 that later purchased land and built a church at 23295 Royalton Road in Columbia Station.
Kraus wants Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi to step in and declare the actions of the former trustees erroneous. The men, he alleged, sought to change the name of the church and transfer the Royalton Road property to “The Nazarene Congregation,” the new name they created despite being removed as trustees.
Escalating conflicts among church members over the summer reached a head Aug. 29 when church trustees Traian Mohan and Petar Stefan stated in a letter to members they had decided to temporarily suspend church services effective Aug. 31, according to the suit.
The letter also stated that no one was to enter the church property “without express written permission of the trustees,” according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the actions were taken by Mohan and Stefan without the church’s authority and against the wishes of its members, who were “locked out … from their place of worship.”
Despite claims that the closing was temporary, Mohan and Stefan removed Bibles, songbooks and members’ property, according to the filing.
At a Sept. 12 meeting, church members voted unanimously to remove Mohan and Stefan as trustees and both men were informed of such action in a letter sent by certified mail, the suit said. At the same meeting, church members approved installing Dmytro Popovych and George Zula as new trustees.
After meeting with an attorney Sept. 18, Mohan and Stefan told church officials they had approved a resolution that gave them authority to change the name of the church. At the same time, Dorel Stefan, son of Petar Stefan, was appointed as a third trustee by his father and Mohan on Sept. 18, according to the suit, which stated the pair’s actions were taken despite a unanimous vote by church members to strip them of their title as trustees, according to the lawsuit.
Kraus, who was unavailable for comment, asked for a declaratory judgment affirming the three men are not trustees of the church, and that actions taken by them following the Sept. 12 meeting of church members be voided.
The suit also requests an injunction to bar Mohan and the Stefans from selling or renting the Columbia Station property or barring members from worshipping there.
Efforts to reach other church officials were unsuccessful Thursday.
SOURCE: Steve Fogarty