Former Lon Morris College employees should get some money in time for Christmas.
In a motion filed last week in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Texas, representatives requested a hearing to present evidence for why more than 130 former Lon Morris employees should get the cash, a news release states.
“We're hoping the court will allow us to distribute these funds before the holidays as we continue to work to increase the value of the estate and make sure workers are paid all the wages they're owed,” Dawn Ragan, the estate's chief restructuring officer, said in a prepared statement last week. “These men and women missed three payroll periods covering six weeks of work because they supported Lon Morris' Christian charitable mission to provide education for young people. We believe they deserve this payment.”
Houston Attorney Hugh Ray III, who represents the Lon Morris bankruptcy estate, has said the school always worked with the other Christian charitable portions of the Methodist church, and the affiliated Methodist charities from time to time would receive money for the benefit of Lon Morris.
“They want to do what they can within the constraints of their mission, and we as debtors want to get our former employees what we can within the constraints of bankruptcy code,” he said earlier this month. “These employees sacrificed time for the college's mission and worked without pay and are owed money. It is my job to get them paid. That is our mission as the bankruptcy team to pay the former employees.
“This is a win for us, and it's a win for the people in Jacksonville who need this money at this time of year,” Ray said.
Ray has said the employees previously received about $200,000 after the bishop of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church made a humanitarian appeal to churches. According to court documents, there is still about $369,000 owed in unreimbursed priority wage claims, which does not include claims of the former Lon Morris president.
Ray has said estate representatives went to Nashville-based nonprofit United Methodist Higher Education Foundation and pleaded their case, which is that former employees dedicated time to the school's mission, and the money would be to pay some of their wages that were incurred. The foundation, which provides scholarships for Methodist students, holds close to $1 million in a Lon Morris scholarship endowment, according to court documents. However, a news release states that Lon Morris and the foundation did not keep sufficient documentation that showed exactly how distribution of the funds should take place.
After negotiation, the foundation and estate agreed that the foundation will be able to provide $130,000 for former employees plus $7,000 for bankruptcy estate-related expenses, according to a news release.
Updated Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 10:42 a.m. CST