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48 Investigates: A Huntsville daycare dispute continues

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 10:38 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - WAFF 48 first introduced you to a Huntsville daycare owner who believes her federal COVID aid was stolen. She’s also in the middle of suing her landlord who she claims doesn’t even own the building.

The case gets even more complicated from here.

One by one, attorneys and clients filed into Madison County’s Circuit Court over a case centering around Just 4 Kids Daycare on Pulaski Pike.

“Paulette Edwards has possession of the building and she has put a lot of money out on the building so, therefore, she has an equitable interest in the building,” said attorney Mari Morrison.

WAFF’s Margo Gray first introduced you to Paulette Edwards who is in the middle of two lawsuits.

One with her current landlords, William “Bo” and Barbara Matthews over an unlawful detainer and another alleging fraud and theft against the landlords’ daughter Brandi Matthews and her father-in-law over her federal Covid money for her daycare.

The court appearance before Judge Claude Hundley went through a bit of legal wrangling.

It all started in district court to where Matthews prevailed over Edwards’ missed rental payments. Then the case went on to circuit court, then to the Alabama Supreme Court, back to where we are now - Judge Hundley’s courtroom.

The Matthews claim Edwards broke her lease by making alterations and improvements to the building that were not approved by the landlord.

Edwards claims she was forced to make those improvements to the tune of close to $200,000 because the Matthews refused to do so. She says this is why she missed those rent payments.

A signed affidavit from October 2020 written by Willie Peavy, who refers to himself as the Matthews’ contractor and maintenance man, was submitted as evidence.

He says Matthews told him not to divulge that the building was actually in very poor shape due to the fact that the roof was leaking all over the building, 75 percent of the lights did not work and out of the 4 toilets in the building, only one worked. He also said the Matthews refused to make repairs and bring the building up to code.

Edwards and her attorney, Mari Morrison, claim the Matthews don’t own the building.

“He owned the building at one time but he deeded it to the Bo Matthews Center of Excellence. He doesn’t own the building anymore.” Morrison said.

The name was still on the wall when I sat down with Ms. Edwards back in March. It once was a non-profit tutoring center.

“Bo Matthews does not own this building, it belongs to the Bo Matthews Center of Excellence which has a lien on it by the federal government for failure to pay taxes and have not filed their own taxes since 2012 and they really don’t have a non-profit status anymore,” Morrison explained.

Up until now, the property was listed with the Madison County tax assessor as a church with religious use, making it tax-exempt since 2004.

However, the tax assessor just updated records on the property, now attaching a little over $7,000 in taxes for the year 2021, after being made aware that a daycare has been housed there since 2018.

The Matthews’ attorney Richard Raleigh refused to comment on camera but sent me a lengthy email in defense of his clients. He said an unlawful detainer is not required to be brought by the owner of the property and that it concerns only the right of possession of the property. He also added that the Bo Matthews Center for Excellence is still an Alabama non-profit and has not been dissolved.

I did learn from the IRS that the Bo Matthews Center For Excellence hasn’t filed a tax return since 2017 and stands to have its status revoked if one isn’t filed by the next tax season.

Ms. Edwards has only been writing rent checks directly to William Bo Matthews and not to the Bo Matthews Center for Excellence.

Raleigh explained, when the courts have held hearings in this matter, his clients have prevailed.

Judge Hundley ruled that since Edwards was up to date in rent payments, she can remain in the property as long as she paid July rent but noted that her lease will end at the end of this month making the issue a moot point

With that ruling two weeks ago, the Matthews have been granted possession of the building on July 31st.

But just days ago, Edwards’ attorney filed a new lawsuit. This time, a preliminary injunction and restraining order against the Bo Matthews Center For Excellence, who she says is the rightful owner of the building.

Edwards also filed two liens against the building in hopes of recouping the money she says she has put into it.

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