LAUDERHILL — The former pastor of Living Word Community Church in Lauderhill has prevailed in a malicious prosecution and breach of contract lawsuit against his old congregation.
The lawsuit filed by the Rev. Allen Jackson against the church also named the chairman of the board, Derrick Kerr, who could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Richard Sierra, did not return calls or respond to emails seeking comment.
A settlement was reached in the case but “the terms are confidential,” Jackson said, leaving further comment to his attorney Nathaniel E. Green.
“The case has been resolved,” Green said. “The parties found it to be in their best interest to settle.”
Green cited the confidential conditions of the settlement which prohibit either side from disclosing the terms. According to court filings however, Jackson had sought at least $27,000 for breach of contract, at least $15,000 for unjust enrichment over the seizure of musical equipment, court costs and unspecified damages for alleged malicious prosecution.
“Mr. Allen was vindicated and, being a man of God, he thought it was in the best interest to settle the case, given his belief system,” Green said.
Jackson, 45, filed the lawsuit earlier this year over his being forced out as pastor of the 600-member multiracial church in January 2010.
Living Word had a 500-plus-seat sanctuary in the two-story worship facility, a for-profit daycare center, a playground, classrooms, office suites, conference halls, a full-service kitchen and a gym. Jackson’s ouster came after he began to question what he called at the time “mysterious and unexplained payments” that allegedly were being made to some current and former board members from the daycare’s proceeds.
When he raised the issue during meetings, one board member sided with Jackson and filed a lawsuit seeking an audit of church finances. Other members reacted by calling the police to have Jackson removed from church premises, claiming he had been fired.
Jackson responded by withdrawing $13,500 from the church’s operating account, $12,400 of which was placed in an escrow account with the church’s attorney to settle any outstanding issues related to his separation. The remaining $1,100 was the portion of his $1,300 weekly salary that had not been direct-deposited into his checking account.
A month later, board members filed a police report accusing Jackson of stealing from the church; claiming he had no authority to withdraw the funds. A criminal investigation resulted in Jackson’s arrest on grand theft charges in May 2010. If convicted he faced up to five years in prison.
After hearing the prosecution’s case, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Bernard Bober ruled there was no evidence to support the theft allegations against Jackson and granted a motion by his criminal defense attorney Johnny L. McCray Jr. for a directed acquittal.
“I think this trial was an abuse of the judicial system and a waste of time and taxpayer’s money,” McCray said at the time. “The state attorney’s office never should have pursued this case. My client was never fired, he didn’t steal anything, and they knew that.”
Jackson openly wept after hearing the judge’s ruling.“I was overjoyed,” Jackson said following the ruling. “I was arrested and placed in a jail cell, accused of stealing from my own church. It was humiliating and it tainted my reputation in this community and among my congregation.”
Born in Orlando, Jackson relocated with his family at age 3 to Pompano Beach, where he was raised. He graduated from Dillard High School in 1985 and went on to serve four years in the U.S. Army. In 1994, he became a youth minister at Hopewell MissionaryBaptist Church in Pompano Beach, where he later became an associate pastor.
During that time Jackson worked for the city’s police department as a community policing specialist and, later, with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in a similar capacity.
In 2001, Jackson struck out on his own, founding the non-denominational Ark Ministry Christian Church in a storefront located in a Lauderdale Lakes strip mall. His church was featured on the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Praise the Lord program. Initially, his church had few members but over the next six years, the congregation grew to more than a hundred members.
Jackson ran for public office in 2004 and 2008, losing to then incumbent Broward County District 9 Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, who was later removed from office after being convicted on public corruption charges.
While campaigning in the 2004 race, Jackson was introduced to members of Living Word Community Church and, over time, he began to attend some of their worship services and express his future plans and vision.
Living Word officials finalized a merger with Jackson’s Ark Ministry Christian Church on Dec. 31, 2007. He became associate pastor of the combined congregation and later was installed as the senior pastor. Jackson has since formed a new church, Ark Restoration Christian Church.