Church founded by late Rep. Dan Johnson fending off foreclosure
Federal officials have agreed to delay the court-ordered auction of the Fern Creek-area church property belonging to Heart of Fire Ministries, the church founded by Danny Ray Johnson, the preacher turned state lawmaker who committed suicide late last year.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Three months after the suicide of preacher and Bullitt County state lawmaker Danny Ray Johnson, the church he founded is fending off a foreclosure action by the federal government against its sanctuary in the Fern Creek area, according to court records.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Brian Edwards in February ordered that the church’s property at 5101 Bardstown Road be sold in a public auction to settle a debt of more than $2.4 million, records show.
But the auction will be delayed for at least three months while the church and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, which holds the mortgage on the property, try to work out a settlement, according to a motion jointly filed by both sides of the case on Monday.
The possible settlement options include “voluntary repayment” of the debt by the church, according to the filing.
Stephanie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Louisville, which represents HUD in the case, confirmed the delay but declined to comment further.
Neither Matthew Stein, the attorney representing the church in the case, nor Johnson’s widow Rebecca Johnson immediately returned a call for comment.
The foreclosure action dates to 2010, when Flynn Brothers Contracting sued to be paid for work it performed rebuilding the church after a fire, according to court records. The legal owner of the property is Danny Johnson Heart of Fire Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded by Johnson in the 1980s.
HUD guaranteed the 2006 construction loan, and the government assumed the mortgage on the church property after HUD made good on the guarantee, records show.
HUD was on the hook for $1.5 million through the guarantee. With interest, the church’s debt to HUD had grown to more-than $2.4 million as of October 2016, court records show.
HUD has sought to foreclose on the property since February 2016, but because of procedural delays, the church real estate never reached an auction before Johnson’s suicide.
Dan Johnson shot himself on a bridge over the Salt River in Bullitt County on Dec. 13, two days following the publication of a five-part series called “The Pope’s Long Con” by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, a unit of Louisville Public Media.
The series revealed what the investigative center called a “web of lies and deception” by Johnson throughout his adult life and included an allegation of sexual assault by him against a 17-year-old.
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