Beyond the Boundary of Shamelessness: Terminix Swindles a Church

Saint Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church Freedom Township Michigan

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Consumer Protection Officers of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (the agency which regulates pest control operators in Alabama) conducted a surprise inspection of a church in Birmingham, Alabama and raided Terminix’s local offices to get records relating to the church. The Agency concluded Terminix never provided the termite prevention barrier that was paid for at Birmingham’s New Star Rising Baptist Church.

Even though the church had an open internal complaint with Terminix about termite reinfestation and damage before the state conducted its surprise inspection, Terminix had never performed a complete treatment. And it concealed its fraud from the church’s pastor.

Terminix did not appeal the agency’s judgment. According to testimony of Terminix’s internal auditor, Michoel Turner, the failure to appeal an agency finding is binding on Terminix and it should not expect to be able to relitigate the finding of liability in a court case.

Terminix’s internal procedures require managers to review the specifications and paperwork for all termite treatments. Consequently, its managers had to know the billion dollar company was paid for a complete treatment and/or that a complete treatment was the only service that would prevent termites, but that the service was never provided. Terminix took money to perform a termite treatment and then never did it. That is stealing in anybody’s book. And Terminix does it all the time.

Terminix was found guilty of routinely falsifying that it performed termite services it never performed. This finding resulted from a raid of its Huntsville office that was also overseen by Alabama Region Manager Brian McMinn. McMinn also supervises the Birmingham office that cheated the church. Churches were among those cheated in the Huntsville office too. According to testimony of the former service manager in the Huntsville office, Brian McMinn and his superiors directed the fraud and cover-up. Clerks and other workers were forced to record that work was done when it was not. When the Service Manager blew the whistle, an internal investigation was launched with instructions to the auditors (instructions issued by those accused of orchestrating the fraud that the state Agency found Terminix guilty of) that was restricted to the local whistleblower and his immediate boss for a one-month period. So it is not surprising that Terminix faked a complete treatment of the New Star Rising Baptist Church in its Birmingham office. The same manager oversaw both operations.

The result of the fraud was that a small church that survives financially off meager tithing and a slim collection plate continued to be destroyed by termites.

When the pastor of the New Star Rising Baptist Church complained to Terminix, its managers concealed the deficient treatment. And they misrepresented that a small spot treatment was all that was needed. And they refused to pay for the ongoing and increasing termite damage.

Deceiving pastors and churches is punishable with punitive damages according both to Alabama law – and the Bible.

The Eighth Commandment states: “thou shalt not steal.”

Psalms 82:1-4 (New Living Translation)

God presides over heaven’s court; he pronounces judgment on the judges: How long will you shower special favors on the wicked? Give fair judgment to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.

According to the law of the Old Testament, stealing from one’s dwelling (which we assume includes God’s houses of worship) and breaches of trust (i.e., trickery and deceit) are fairly punished with at least doubling the value of full restitution as a punishment. Exodus 22:7, 22:9. And that is exactly what Terminix should have to pay in an arbitration filed on behalf of the church.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Nikki Still, in one of her last acts of distinguished service before stepping-down appointed Augusta Salem Dowd – a fine lawyer who mentored me as a law clerk and young associate at Lange, Simpson, Robinson and Somerville – as a neutral arbitrator to hear the church’s complaint.

Ms. Dowd is a partner at the well-known Birmingham-based White Arnold & Dowd. According to the web site for the firm she runs, Ms. Dowd, “…has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in a broad spectrum of cases including business, civil and complex litigation, personal injury, mass tort, class action, whistleblower and intellectual property.” White Arnold & Dowd has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for victims of corporate greed and fraud throughout the United States over the past decade.

Terminix is defended by lawyers Dave Creagh and Dave Richards from the main office of the Hinshaw and Culbertson firm which bills itself as “national law firm with approximately 500 lawyers in 24 offices” that “treasures” representing longstanding clients like Terminix.

Campbell Law PC, A Purpose Filled Practice, welcomes representation of the oppressed and defrauded in significant individual, mass action and class action cases across the continental United States. At Campbell Law, we treasure representing victims – including those who got cheated by experts they hired to protect their property and places of worship. We like to rest well at night. However, we never harbor ill will toward fine lawyers who chose to represent the wrongdoers because the justice system needs good lawyers to make sure the procedural rights of guilty are respected and that punishments are fair.

Campbell Law PC is rated “AV” and 5.0 of 5.0 by Martindale-Hubbell which the highest rating for ethics and legal ability a law firm or lawyer can achieve by this independent rating agency that relies upon peer reviews by judges and lawyers. Its Principal, Tom Campbell also appears in the 2011 edition of “Best Lawyers in America” for commercial litigation. Selection to the “Best Lawyers in America” list is based upon peer review by other attorneys and is a rare honor – especially for lawyers from small firms that represent consumers.