By Nick Ochsne
Published on May 05, 2015
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – A dispute at a Charlotte church has led to members being banned from church property, the firing of the church’s priest and a lawsuit in state court.
At issue in the lawsuit is whether or not the head of the parish council at Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Dr. Solomon Gugsa, improperly changed the church’s bylaws to extend his term and alter membership requirements to exclude those who disagree with him.
The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2014. An amended complaint was filed in November 2014.
There are 20 plaintiffs in the lawsuit; each plaintiff is a member of the church and some of them served as officers on the church’s parish council.
In addition to challenging Gugsa’s actions as head of the parish council, the plaintiffs are also seeking access to the church’s membership list and financial documents.
Documents obtained by On Your Side Investigates show members of the church made repeated requests for complete access to the church’s membership list and financial documents before the lawsuit was filed to no avail.
North Carolina state law requires membership lists and financial records of all incorporated non-profits to be made available to its membership upon request.
An attorney for Holy Trinity, Julian Wright, said church leaders have complied with the law.
“Anybody who has ask for those records, that I’m aware of, has not been denied those records,” Wright said.
Wright agreed to sit down with On Your Side Investigates after Gugsa refused multiple requests for an interview.