- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Christian Coalition goes to court today in Richmond, where the former powerhouse of the religious right faces a lawsuit filed by a Maryland moving company that says it was underpaid when it moved the group out of its Washington offices three years ago.

Reese & Sons Enterprises of District Heights, which filed the lawsuit in Henrico County General District Court, says it gave the coalition a $4,580 estimate to move out of its office at 499 S. Capitol St. SW to a storage facility in Clinton, Md.

But when packers and movers arrived on Thanksgiving weekend in 2002, they found more items waiting to be moved than they had seen during a preliminary visit, owner Ryland Reese said.

The move, which ended up taking 271/2hours over three days, cost $6,470. Mr. Reese said he billed the group for only 191/2 hours because coalition President Roberta Combs promised to pay him in full.

But when he tried to present Mrs. Combs with a revised bill later that night, she already had left for the coalition’s new office in Charleston, S.C., he said.

Two months later, Mr. Reese received a payment for $4,580 — $1,890 less than the total bill. He said every time he tried to reach Mrs. Combs, her phone number had changed.

Asked why he didn’t retain the furniture as collateral, “I didn’t think that was the right way to treat them,” Mr. Reese said, “with them being the Christian organization they were.”

He is suing for the balance.

“There’s no apparent reason for them to dispute this bill,” said Mr. Reese’s lawyer, Jonathon Moseley. “In their mind, an estimate is a fixed price.”

Coalition spokeswoman Michele Combs, Mrs. Combs’ daughter, said the Reese lawsuit was in dispute.

“They’ve been paid the full amount,” she said.

The coalition once drew thousands of people to its biennial “Road to Victory” religio-political conferences in the District. One thousand people attended its September 2004 conference but its founder, the Rev. Pat Robertson, skipped the event.

On its 2004 tax return, the coalition listed a $2.2 million debt. Several creditors are still pursuing the group. Its former law firm, Huff, Poole & Mahoney of Virginia Beach, is trying to recover $75,530 in legal services. It secured a partial $21,135 payment from a Virginia judge, but its efforts to obtain the balance were rebuffed Nov. 8 by a Charleston County, S.C., civil court.

And in Tarrant County, Texas, the coalition’s former direct-mail firm, Global Direct, is suing the group for $86,602 in unpaid fees. A trial is set for June 12, according to the Tarrant County Court Clerk’s office.

Still, Michele Combs says, “All these cases have been settled and worked out.”

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