Opp House votes to dissolve and transfer assets to Buncombe
By Bill Moss
The Opportunity House, which once had hundreds of dues-paying members who enjoyed a robust menu of arts and crafts shows, dances, games of bridge and other programs for seniors, is now permanently disappear.
The nonprofit’s three-member board of directors voted on June 10 to dissolve the 61-year-old organization, beginning the process of closing and liquidating its assets. The senior center’s final chapters have been highlighted in recent weeks with numerous actions from the nonprofit’s board and attorney, the Community Foundation of Henderson County, the courts, the office County Taxes and the State Attorney General. Actions include:
• After a February 28 hearing, Henderson County Superior Court Resident Chief Judge Peter Knight issued an order March 7 denying Opportunity House’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Community Foundation of Henderson County in December 2018. It was the second time the nonprofit has tried and failed to have the foundation’s lawsuit dismissed, which questioned whether the Opp House was legally operating as a non-profit organisation.
• Three weeks after Opportunity House’s board of directors voted on June 10 to dissolve the agency, its attorney, Edward Bleynat, filed articles of dissolution with the North Carolina secretary of state.
• After a conference with lawyers for Opportunity House and the foundation on July 22, Knight appointed a receiver to liquidate the organization, pay its creditors and coordinate the distribution of its assets. Knight’s order gives the receiver, Asheville attorney John Noor, broad authority to oversee the maintenance, repair and operation of the nonprofit, pay bills and defend Opportunity House before the courts. Knight authorized an hourly rate of $300 for Noor and other associates at the Roberts & Stevens law firm, $225 for associates, and $100 for administrative assistants.
• On the same day Knight appointed the receiver, Henderson County Tax Administrator Darlene Burgess advised County Attorney Russ Burrell that her office had revoked Opportunity House’s tax-exempt status and was preparing to collect current and arrears taxes over the past five years. Noor has already met with tax office officials to discuss the property tax issue, Burgess said. Assessed for property tax purposes at $1,897,800, the property at 1411 Asheville Highway would result in an annual tax bill of $20,496 based on the combined City of Hendersonville and County of Henderson tax rates. – not including interest, penalties and other costs.
• Opportunity House said in its dissolution plan that it wanted to liquidate the assets and distribute the money after paying the total owed to creditors, which it estimated at $390,000.
• The receivership and eventual transfer of assets or cash will be overseen by Judge Knight and State Attorney General Josh Stein. Bleynat, Noor and Community Foundation attorney Steve Grabenstein discussed the liquidation process last week during a conference call with the attorney general’s office.
Opportunity House aggressively contested the lawsuit filed by the Community Foundation in 2018 after it failed to get answers from the Opp House president and board members about its activities and services. The foundation’s lawsuit explained why it believed the foundation no longer met the definition of a nonprofit corporation and asked Judge Knight to hold a trial that would determine whether it was a a valid non-profit organization.
In two separate motions, Opportunity House argued that the foundation lacked standing to challenge the agency’s status, saying only the IRS, the North Carolina Department of Revenue, the Secretary of State of North Carolina or the Attorney General of North Carolina had this power. For now, the lawsuit is on hold, Grabenstein said, and could ultimately be dismissed if the receivership protects the interests of Henderson County nonprofits.
“The Order appointing John (Noor) was quite broad in terms of the authority it has,” Grabenstein said in an email responding to a series of questions from Lightning. “We are trying to determine what role, if any, the Community Foundation will have in the dissolution process. The Community Foundation is not a party to the process, but I expect that we will put something on the record that reflects the concerns of the Community Foundation. The Attorney General will play a role in reviewing the proposed sale of OH’s assets.
Who gets the assets?
An unresolved point of contention is where the proceeds from the sale of the Opp House asset would go. Reflecting its continued hostility to the Community Foundation, the Opp House board in its dissolution plan directed that proceeds go to an Asheville-based affordable housing agency or other nonprofits, then pointed out that the property “will NOT be transferred to the Henderson County Community Foundation.
Opp House’s choice of Mountain Housing Opportunity as the recipient of half a million dollars or more was a curious decision, as no one at the Community Foundation was aware of the services provided by the Henderson County MHO. According to its latest IRS Form 990, MHO in 2019 received $3.5 million in grants, $1.7 million in program income, paid $1.2 million in salaries, and had $14.9 million at disposal. in assets, up $2.1 million from the previous year.
On its website, MHO says that in its 32-year history it has built or financed more than 1,600 affordable homes and apartments and says it currently owns and rents 1,039 affordable apartments in nine counties across Carolina. North.
“Mountain Housing works in Buncombe County,” said Sarah Grymes, vice president of housing impact for Dogwood Health Trust, early Monday morning. “They don’t serve Henderson County.” Grymes later said, “I just spoke to (MHO fundraising chief) Geoffrey Barton and he didn’t know anything about it.”
Transferring a windfall to a Buncombe organization would set off alarm bells in the Henderson County nonprofit community. Grabenstein and Benson said their role at this point is to advocate for Henderson County charities.
“We’ve identified a few issues that we hope will be resolved in the disbandment process,” Grabenstein said. “First and foremost, we have requested that the receiver and the court ensure that proceeds from the sale of the OH property be donated to non-profit organizations in Henderson County. We are not asking whether the Community Foundation receives the land from OH or the proceeds from the sale of the land.There are many viable non-profit organizations in Henderson County that would benefit from a portion of the proceeds from the sale of OH assets Second, we ask that the claims of creditors of OH Insiders be closely reviewed and analyzed by the Receiver, AG and Court.
The construction consultant becomes a member of the board of directors
“Insiders” would include the three board members, Chairman Ken Rhoads; Jackie Roberts, the secretary who at one time helped Rhoads run the agency; and Chuck Snider, a home builder from Asheville.
Rhoads did not respond to calls from the Lightning seeking comment, and in particular to explain why the board wants an Asheville-based nonprofit to receive money from the sale of Opp’s assets. House.
Snider’s relationship with House Opp began when Rhoads asked him to help with repairs.
“I was hired as a construction consultant to redesign this building (and) to fix all the problems and I ended up on the board because I was going there all the time,” said Snider last week. “As for the legality, I don’t know much about it.”
Asked why the board favored MHO, he replied, “Well, it’s a state organization,” approved by the secretary of state. “I don’t think Henderson County has much to do with it. They can pretty much go anywhere in the state of North Carolina.
When asked if he knew the county tax assessor had revoked the Opp House’s nonprofit status, Snider said he didn’t believe that was true.
“Currently, as far as I know, the state attorney general still says he is in good standing,” he said. “I don’t know much about this part.”
Snider said he expected to be able to proceed with construction plans under new ownership. He estimated the building – held together with “wire and duct tape” – needs at least $50,000 worth of repairs.
“It’s a moving target with everything going on, legality,” he said. “It’s not my part. I just go to meetings and I go to lawyer meetings. Ideally, pass it on to another nonprofit and go from there. Pay the bills and what’s left will go to whoever the receiver decides. Rhoads “doesn’t make a dime with this,” Snider added. “It’s costing him money if anything.”
Now that Rhoads and the board no longer control Opportunity House, its future is in the hands of the receiver, the Superior Court and the attorney general.
“Fortunately, Judge Knight and Mr. Noor were interested in hearing what is important to the Community Foundation in this process,” Grabenstein said.