In advance of his retirement next month, the Rev. Mack King Carter of New Mount Olive Baptist Church has drafted an awesome wish list. The letter containing those items was made public in a court filing Friday. Carter asks for:
- the title of "Pastor Emeritus."
- the church pay his health insurance premiums for the next four years.
- the rights to the income generated by video and tapes of his sermons.
- a $50,000 annual payment for the rest of his life.
And if that's still not enough to boost his wallet and ego, a source with knowledge of church affairs tells Juice that Carter is also seeking the right to collect a portion of the profits from a $75-per-plate gala in his honor at the Hollywood Westin Diplomat. Finally, don't forget that the church has also moved to name a street after Carter. (That effort encountered opposition and was recently withdrawn.)
Located in an impoverished section of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Carter's members are mostly working class. Some of them are poor. Yet every time he has asked for money, they've given it to him. They've made him a very rich man. Just not quite as rich as he'd like to be.
A group of church trustees who challenged Carter in 2005 were condemned from the pulpit, then ousted from their volunteer positions. All for seeking an audit to learn whether Carter had improperly pocketed income that belonged to the church. That group is now embroiled in a lawsuit with Carter. (For more on that, see this feature I wrote in December 2007.)
On Friday the trustees' attorney, Willie Jones, filed Carter's letter to the church, along with an accounting of other lucrative perks: nearly $20,000 in tape and video sales, a $100,000 in donations for a new home, and $260,000 in anniversary gifts. The filing also calls into question whether Carter is being honest with church officials.
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In his letter to the church committee, Carter explained that the $50,000 annual post-retirement payments will make up for the church's not having a "formal" retirement package for the first 19 of his 27 years at the church, Jones' filing says otherwise. It cites $400,000 in payments by the church toward Carter's retirement, including a policy that was paid annually until 2000, at which point, the church began paying much higher premiums for another retirement plan.
So far church officials have approved $30,000 in annual payments to Carter but sources tell Juice that may be boosted up to $50,000 at the September 24 meeting that comes the week before Carter's last sermon.
There may be signs that Carter has finally asked his church members for too much. Juice received a copy of a note that New Mount Olive's members have been sealing into their offertory envelopes. It's framed like $100 bill, except that where Benjamin Franklin's portrait would be, there's the following text:
"I cannot agree to give the pastor over $30,000 a year for life when he has over $800,000 in retirement and gifts. If I cannot vote, then I will hold my money until I can have my say and vote by paper ballot."