Jazz Hall's Unpaid Bills, Lease Violation At Heart Of Charter School's Eviction

Tuesday, September 18th 2012, 7:06 pm

A Tulsa charter school was ordered out of their classrooms Monday, because of terms of a lease they didn't even know about.

Tulsa County owns the Jazz Depot's building, but didn't know the Deborah Brown Community School was holding classes there.

The school said it's been having classes here at the Jazz Depot for five years, but no one from the county really noticed they said, until some unpaid bills started piling up.

The school didn't owe them - the Jazz Hall does - but while all this is being sorted out, the school was forced out.

9/17/2012 Related Story: Tulsa County Evicts Downtown School From Jazz Depot

Students from the Deborah Brown School were in the Jazz Depot Tuesday, but not in their classrooms. That's off-limits, while the Jazz Hall of Fame works out a contract dispute coupled with unpaid bills owed to Tulsa County.

The county ordered the school out, because the Jazz Hall didn't get any inspections or permits for modifications made for the school.

"The most important and pressing issue is that certificate of occupancy, based on the renovations that were done to the facility," said Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo. "There's no way we can get around that."

The students of the Deborah Brown School are caught in the middle.

An administrator for the school said they had no idea the proper permits weren't ever issued, and it's never come up in the years they've held classes at the Depot.

He said the school is getting those permits now.

Millard Jones, of the Deborah Brown School, said, "All of that is being done, as we speak. We're getting the proper inspections done, final inspections, so we should be okay."

Smaligo says he believes the issue of the school being in the building could be worked out, but the Jazz Hall still has to pay about $75,000 dollars of overdue bills, with a deadline in early October.

9/7/2012 Related Story: Jazz Hall Calls Overdue Tulsa County Bills 'Misunderstanding'

"No money had been paid to the county for reimbursement for either the ballpark assessment or the money owed for reimbursement for insurance that we're carrying on the building," Smaligo said.

The Jazz Hall's new attorney, Mark Darrah, said he's been told the bills will be paid, but, right now, he's working through the terms of a lease that might have been too complicated for a non-profit board to understand.

"The Jazz Hall of Fame is a non-profit," said Darrah. "They don't have an attorney on staff. They don't have an attorney typically on retainer. And it's, you know, the lease here is complex and difficult, single-space and multiple pages."

The school's attorney said a complicated lease isn't an excuse for not following the terms, but he believes it was an honest misunderstanding that can be resolved quickly.

The unpaid bills are the bigger problem for the county, which has set an October 8 meeting where they could force the Jazz Hall to move out.


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