- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

A Christian Coalition of America ex-official’s lawsuit for $123,500 in unpaid compensation has put nepotism of the coalition’s president and the acrimonious divorce of her daughter center stage in Virginia courts.

The coalition, once a powerful national voice for traditional family values founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, contests the claim filed by Tracy E. Ammons of Alexandria on grounds his compensation was funneled through a consulting company belonging to his ex-wife, now the coalition’s vice president for communications.

Roberta Combs, the coalition’s president since Mr. Robertson stepped down nearly three years ago, hired her daughter, Michele Ammons, as national events coordinator, and Mr. Ammons, her son-in-law, as the organization’s human resources director and legislative consultant in Washington.

The three family members relocated from Washington to Charleston, S.C., in April 2003.

Mr. Robertson tapped Mrs. Combs as executive vice president in 2001. She was Mr. Robertson’s South Carolina campaign chairman when he ran for president in 1988 and headed the state’s Christian Coalition affiliate in Charleston.

Mr. Robertson stepped down as coalition president and turned over control to Mrs. Combs in February 2002 as the organization settled a racial-discrimination lawsuit brought by 10 black employees in the Washington office.

That claim was settled with an out-of-court payment of some $300,000 to the employees. With legal costs, the coalition’s insurance company paid out close to $1 million, participants in the case said.

Mr. Ammons’ lawsuit stems from his divorce from Mrs. Ammons.

After their July 2003 separation, Mrs. Combs filed an affidavit on coalition letterhead with a South Carolina circuit court on behalf of her daughter’s claim for alimony and child support from Mr. Ammons. The Ammonses have a 4-year-old son.

The affidavit states, “Per the agreement… between Millenium Consulting and Christian Coalition of America, the total amount paid monthly is $7,500. Mr. Tracy Ammons earns $6,000 per month. Ms. Michelle Ammons earns $1,500 per month.”

“After the judge decided on July 30 how much alimony Tracy had to pay, the next day, Roberta fired him,” said Jonathon Moseley, Mr. Ammons’ attorney. “So, now he had no income with which to pay it. Michele then went to court and got him jailed because he couldn’t pay.”

“I never got a penny,” Mr. Ammons said of the $138,750 paid by the coalition to Millenium Consulting, the firm set up by Mrs. Ammons, from Jan. 2 to July 31, 2002, according records filed in the lawsuit in Arlington County Circuit Court. “It was to Millenium.”

Mr. Ammons said his ex-wife kept all the money and he received just three checks totaling $6,500 under a separate consultant contract with the coalition signed by Mrs. Combs on Nov. 1, 2001. The contract called for the coalition to pay him $6,500 a month, but after the first month he received no further direct payments.

“It all went to Millenium,” he said. Asked how he lived without paychecks, Mr. Ammons said, “[Mrs. Ammons] paid off my credit card sometimes.”

Mrs. Combs and Mrs. Ammons declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Ammons said he had signed a prenuptial agreement at the insistence of Mrs. Combs on the day of his wedding, Dec. 11, 1999, so he could not sue for his share of funds from Millenium Consulting. Mrs. Ammons is sole proprietor of Millenium.

Mr. Moseley said Mrs. Combs’ arrangement between the coalition and Millenium is a violation of Internal Revenue Code restrictions against “excess benefits” of more than $600 yearly to family members of anyone “in a position to exercise substantial influence” over the affairs of a tax-exempt organization.

He said charges of Brad D. Weiss, the coalition’s attorney, in court that Mr. Ammons was paid through Millenium as a consultant and had no separate consultant contract creates a further potential legal problem of insurance fraud for the coalition, which told its insurance company that Mr. Ammons was a full-time employee for purposes of covering costs of his legal defense and share of the settlement in the prior racial-discrimination case.

Mr. Weiss said, “The allegations asserted are without merit, and the extraneous claims about personal marital issues are scurrilous. The allegations about a federal tax issue are without merit.”

He said the coalition “intends to vigorously challenge unfounded and meritless allegations.”

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