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Teachers confront Christian School lawyer over fee

Former Hendersonville Christian School employees and board members confronted the school's attorney over his fee for helping sell the school, saying his proposed $51,000 payment would deprive teachers of a fair settlement.

In a conversation that got heated at times and was observed by a sheriff's deputy from about 30 yards away, four former teachers and two former board members told attorney James L. "Skip" Goldsmith Jr. that they thought his share of the remaining assets of the school was too large and undeserved.
"You just put a claim in on the school that's taking away money from people who rightly deserve it," said Kathleen Seng, a former board member whose children attended the school. "They don't have money to pay them but they have money to pay you? It's unacceptable."
No one has any money yet.
The receivership of the school property was on the calendar to be resolved Monday but Superior Court Judge Erwin Spainhour of Cabarrus County delayed acting. After hearing an objection from one teacher, Spainhour told Goldsmith he was not sure how the law treated such cases and wanted to do more research.
The school was in financial trouble for months before it closed at the end of the school year in 2012. It had less than $100 in the bank and was under threat of foreclosure by TD Bank for payment of mortgages totaling about $1 million, its attorney says.
Henderson County bought the school campus for $910,000 in January and has turned it into the Athletics and Activity Center. After paying off a mortgage for $765,000, paying real estate commission and other closing costs of $91,000 and a Duke Energy bill of $1,519, the school had $55,362 to pay unsecured creditors and the lawyer.
Court-appointed receiver William Gardo recommended a distribution that would give creditors about 20 cents on the dollar based on their claim.
Goldsmith filed a claim for $273,000, the amount he said represented the 30 percent contingency fee the School Board agreed to pay him to represent the school, sell its assets and dissolve the nonprofit corporation.
Outside the courtroom, board members Seng and Dr. Chip Christiansen and former employees Denise Walden, Laurel Moore, Lynn Lechron and Grace Currie questioned Goldsmith, and earlier Gardo, the court-appointed receiver, on the amount of the attorney's fee compared with teacher's claims. The teachers say they were not paid for the last two months of the school year in 2012, and many never received notification that they were entitled to file a claim, Moore said.
Goldsmith, who also had served as the school's last headmaster, said a contingency arrangement was the only way the board could retain an attorney. The work he did to arrange the sell and salvage as much as he did justified the number, he said.
"Had I not taken the steps I've taken we wouldn't even be here because there would be no money," he said. "I worked on it for a year."
Unsecured creditors submitted claims totaling $296,605, with Goldsmith's claim by far the largest. Gardo recommended that claimants receive an amount equal to 18.7 percent of their claim.