Rev. Groover steps down as Boston school committee chairman

Howard Manly | 1/10/2013, 9:26 a.m.

In the midst of a bitter bankruptcy proceeding in which the finances of Charles Street AME Church are under federal scrutiny, Rev. Gregory S. Groover Sr., the church’s embattled pastor, announced his resignation as president of the appointed Boston School Committee.

The sudden announcement was made just a few days after Groover won a Pyrrhic victory in bankruptcy court when Judge Frank J. Bailey granted the church until Feb. 28 to file a financial reorganization plan. The church filed an initial plan last March and has since filed six different amended versions.

None of those plans are acceptable to One United Bank, the nation’s largest African American-owned bank and Charles Street Church’s single largest creditor. One significant issue is whether the court should allow the church to repay nearly $5 million in debt to the bank over 30 years as requested by the church.

OneUnited attorneys have argued that the Church’s finances are a mess, filled with major discrepancies within the church’s own financial documents, and their latest motion requesting an extension further demonstrates what OneUnited has called “gross, severe financial mismanagement” at Charles Street Church.

In opposing the motion for an extension, OneUnited attorneys argued last week that Charles Street “has not made good faith progress…nor has it demonstrated reasonable prospects as may regard a viable plan.”

On those points, Charles Street attorneys disagreed, arguing in their motion for an extension that the church has made “significant progress” by holding “several negotiations with creditors” and “reaching agreement with two of the three major creditors…”

Church lawyers also said discrepancies in the church’s financial documents were in part due to “a mislabeling of one column” and that the church has “worked diligently to correct” its statements.

Given the litigiousness of the bankruptcy case — to date, nearly 15,000 pages of sworn testimony, depositions, financial statements, motions and other documents have been filed during the case — it’s hard to believe that Groover had the wherewithal to balance his pastoral duties at the church with the demands of working as chairman of the Boston School Committee.

Appointed to the board five years ago by Mayor Thomas Menino, Groover said in published reports that the bankruptcy hearings were “not the driving reason” for him stepping down as school committee chairman.

Groover told the Boston Globe that in addition to spending more time at the church, he wanted to “dive deeper” into his Grove Hall neighborhood and help to turn around schools there. Groover said he would remain an active school committee member.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Groover told the Globe. “I’m still around.”

The relationship between OneUnited and Charles St. started on Oct. 3, 2006 when Groover agreed to borrow $3.6 million to build a 22,000-square-foot community center on church-owned land near Grove Hall.

Called the Roxbury Renaissance Center, the building would feature a grand ballroom, multi-purpose meeting space, conference rooms, prayer and meditation space and sound proof musical practice rooms. To pay for the construction, Groover said that he would raise money by renting space for wedding receptions and community meetings.