February 25, 2005 (c)Homer Kizer
Commentary — From the Margins
No Business but Business
In his official capacity, Marvin L. Goretski, Supervisor of the Port Austin Township, sent Philip Frankford, one of the four original trustees of the Port Austin Sabbatarian Church Community (PASCC), a letter on February 23, 2005, stating, "This old base area is zoned B-2 General Business District, section 801 and paragraph #2 states. [sic] Agricultural structures or uses shall not be permitted; unless herein specifically provided. The animals and foul are in violation of the Port Austin Township Zoning Ordinance."
Arthur M. Hawkins purchased the two parcels of land in March 1999, then in December 1999 reassigned his contracts to Eternal Life Bible Institute (ELBI) for one dollar each. ELBI then reassigned its land contracts to the four PASCC trustees on April 28, 2004, for the remaining balance on the contracts Art Hawkins signed, plus $420,000. Warwick Potts reported to the PASCC trustees that Hawkins had been, for years, looking for a piece of property such as the former Air Base. But nine months after purchasing his dream property, Hawkins dumped the two parcels into a non-profit corporation for reasons known only to him. However, shortly after purchasing the parcels, Hawkins announced plans to begin a Bible college, and he attracted to Port Austin at least two older married couples as students. Thus, when the Fall 1999 semester was to begin, Hawkins had on-site students and relocated faculty members. But problems prevented the official beginning of the semester, so Hawkins employed both the faculty members and the students in a project to ascertain significant secular literary references to the laws of God until he reassigned his interests in his dream property to ELBI
Glen Goslin, ELBI’s first manager of its Port Austin properties, immediately announced that ELBI would open a school on the former Air Base, but the school seemed to have unexplained delays in opening. Norman Scott Edwards in his Servants’ News newsletter published an article by Warwick Potts in which classes to be offered were described, and indeed, at least one school session was held, with Edwards as an instructor. But ELBI’s plans for the school were stopped when state officials informed Goslin that he needed a permit that he hadn’t obtained…Goslin never obtained the needed permits, apparently because a zoning variance wasn’t obtainable. Instead of the needed permits, ELBI sought to change the name of the school that Hawkins evidently still wanted to establish, for Hawkins’ shadow then loomed over ELBI and has continued to loom over the tax-exempt corporation ever since. His wife and attorney in fact, Cynthia Hawkins, was president of ELBI in July 2004. Her signature was legally required on the quit claim deeds ELBI then signed. Warwick Potts’ signature wasn’t acceptable even though Potts, as an authorized board member, signed the Purchasing Agreement with PASCC dated April 28, 2004, and the revised agreement dated September 17, 2004.
Obtaining needed permits after the fact (when caught) by a corporation or company in which Hawkins has involvement is not without precedent, so Hawkins’ expectation seems to be that Goslin would obtain the necessary paperwork, or that Potts would, or that someone else in his employment would so that his educational project could proceed. Instead, twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) were spent upgrading the Air Base’s former messhall so that it could be certified as a restaurant. But the needed zoning variance and permits hadn’t been first obtained, so the restaurant was closed the day it opened, or very soon thereafter.
While it cannot be stated with certainty, in December 1999 Hawkins apparently felt that ELBI as a 501(c)(3) corporation could accomplish what he could not as Exide admitted wrongdoing in the fraud case being brought against the corporation for which Hawkins had been the CEO. Apparently Hawkins believed that ELBI could acquire the needed permits and zoning variances that might be denied him because of the developing scandal that would send him to jail in another three years. Regardless, the permits were not obtained and the school was not opened. And in 2000, Norman Scott Edwards had knowledge of the planned school through having been invited to teach courses by ELBI, and knowledge of some of the difficulties ELBI was having in obtaining permits.
Spring 2003: ELBI still has not established a school at Port Austin even though the school under the name Port Austin Bible Center had allegedly published books authored by Dr. Stephen E. Jones (a dispute exists about who really paid for books to be published). So in 2003, this school had a website, a post office box, and a fulltime employee that served as the pastor of the small fellowship meeting in the chapel of Arthur Hawkins’ Bloomfield mansion. Who signed the paychecks of this pastor is problematic and a subject for discovery, for this fulltime employee, Warwick Potts, is a resident alien who apparently entered the country as an automotive expert for a company owned by Hawkins. It is his fingerprints that are on the hands of Hawkins’ shadow here at Port Austin. And this automotive expert that works in fulltime ministry announced to the fellowship meeting in Hawkins’ mansion that he would be relocating to Illinois at about the same time that Norman Scott Edwards writes in Servants’ News that he might play with the kids for a while.
The timing of when Warwick Potts revealed that he would leave Port Austin and when Edwards wrote, "It may be best that I work with young people now, especially when my children are at home, and then go back to researching and writing when I am older" (Servants’ News Mar/Apr 2003) seems terribly coincidental. In the cited issue of Servants’ News, Edwards writes, in a page one article, about the Sabbatarian Education Environment (SEE), a mentoring/apprenticeship program for which tuition will be charged. In fact, in Version 2.2 (dated January 2004) of the "A Plan" for SEE the combined tuition, and room and board costs ranged from a low of $3,100 per school year to a high of $15,600. Edwards writes in this Version 2.2, "The $2000 [minimum cost for food] per month [sic] is a very basic menu taking advantage of inexpensive and surplus food wherever possible." Edwards means to write, per nine months, instead of, per month.
At no time earlier than January 2004 had Edwards planned to educate Sabbatarian students for free, or for donations received. In his writing and in discussions with the other three trustees through April 2004, Edwards at least gave the impression that the educational costs for the SEE program would be covered by the students being educated. But when the only student to come to Port Austin arrived with Edwards in July, Edwards informed the other three trustees that there would be no tuition charged, that this student would not pay any tuition, nor pay room and board. In fact, on August 3, 2004, Edwards’ published a brochure that announced the cost of educating SEE students would be covered by donations, none of which ever (to the knowledge of the other three trustees) went to PASCC. Donations received throughout the summer and fall of 2004 were deposited in Edwards’ personal Church Bible Teaching Ministry account with Regions Bank, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.
When SEE’s only student arrived in July 2004, Edwards, I believe, knew that he could not charge tuition, and that he could not operate a college or any other educational program from the former Air Base that charged for room and board. He knew from his relationship with Warwick Potts and Arthur Hawkins that went back to 2000, and he knew that he also could not obtain the needed permits and zoning variance. But I believe Edwards figured by not charging tuition for room and board but operating only on donations that he could skirt the need for permits. Plus, the zoning variance would not be needed as long as the mentored students produced useful work that appeared as industry.
Educating students at Port Austin was, allegedly, Arthur Hawkins’ dream, but a dream that he couldn’t make happen from Federal prison. The shell tax-exempt corporations, of which many existed and still exist, that Hawkins’ attorneys apparently established could not show that ministry work was being performed on the former Air Base. Thus, Edwards sold to Hawkins and Potts a means of educating students that in exchange, maintained the property’s tax-exempt status that ELBI was about to lose. But to educate students through donations and in a work-study environment, Hawkins and Potts needed the donation base that supported Edwards’ Servants’ News. They needed Edwards.
In Version 2.2 of Edwards’ SEE "A Plan," section 4(b — Farming)(i) reads, "Emphasis should be placed on organic farming methods designed to efficient [sic] produce good food, not big profits. This will involve observing the land Sabbath of the Bible, healthy seed production, crop rotation, natural fertilizer, cultivation and harvesting. It will include natural fowl and animal feeding, production and meat/egg harvesting as provided by God’s laws.." Subset (ii) reads, "Foods grown can be processed and preserved for winter consumption. Excess food can potentially be sold into the organic food market."
The above portion of the SEE/SEAL "A Plan" was initially written by Terry Williams more than twenty years ago. Williams’ article on Sabbatarian Elder Adult Living (SEAL) was, in Edwards’ words, heavily edited by Edwards, but the essence of what Williams wrote carried through into Edwards’ "A Plan." Williams’ twenty-year-old SEAL plan and later Edwards and Williams’ SEE/SEAL plan always had in it an agriculture component. Williams would never have entered into a deal that did not allow elderly Sabbatarians to grow crops and to raise fowl. Any acceptable parcel of land had to allow agriculture.
But the former Air Base at Port Austin does not allow agriculture, or non-general business uses of the property.
Between January and April 2004, Edwards, because he was in Michigan whereas Frankford and Drieman lived in Missouri and Williams’ home was in Illinois, began to investigate the restrictions and deed covenants of the land parcels ELBI offered to sell to PASCC. (Initially, Hawkins and Potts offered to Edwards, Williams, and Frankford three seats on ELBI’s board of directors. They would then comprise half of ELBI’s board, with Cynthia Hawkins remaining the president of ELBI until Art was released from prison. This offer was declined by Edwards, who said that Williams and Frankford would never go for Hawkins’ proposal.)
In his research of covenant restrictions, Edwards found imbedded excess profit clauses, and Huron County’s first right of refusal clauses. He should also have found how the parcels were zoned.
One of the first inquiries a responsible buyer will make is determining that the property’s zoning is compatible with the property’s intended use. Norman Scott Edwards would have checked the property’s zoning. Regardless of what Warwick Potts told him, Edwards, because of his personality characteristics, would have asked civil authorities about the zoning of the property, and he would have wanted to see the zoning in writing; he wouldn’t have taken someone’s word for what the zoning was. Therefore, the reasonable assumption can be made that Edwards knew that the former Air Base was zoned a B-2 General Business District.
But Edwards never said anything to the other three trustees about the zoning of the property. He never said he knew that ELBI had problems obtaining an educational permit. He never said that he knew PASCC could not have a college on the property. However, he was always very careful not to use the word "college," and he corrected others when they used the word "college" to describe PASCC’s educational intent. By his actions, he disclosed having knowledge that PASCC could not operate a for-tuition educational program from the former Air Base. And through having personal contact with Hawkins and Potts, and through having taught a Bible course on the former Air Base with Warwick Potts and Stephen Jones, Edwards cannot convincingly deny knowing about ELBI’s educational permit problems. Nevertheless, Edwards proceeded with plans for procuring the properties being offered by Hawkins and Potts, by ELBI.
It is unreasonable to assume that Edwards did not know that Williams, as the heart of the SEAL program, could not raise organic crops or have fowl on the former Air Base because of the B-2 designation. Therefore, for Edwards to have allowed Williams to go forward with the SEAL program to an estimate of $150,000 is truly heartless. Edwards, when challenged by a reader on his lack of using linguistic absolutes, writes in the Jan/Feb 1999 issue of Servants’ News, "I say that all men will be judged for what they have done in this life. I say that the vast majority of judgment scriptures talk about how we treat our neighbors, not about what doctrines we believe or practice" (page 28 — emphasis added). So, how did Edwards treat Williams, his neighbor? Did he treat Williams with contempt, or with just disrespect? He certainly didn’t show love to Williams or to the other three trustees. And Edwards, in his use of dogmatic language, shows that he knows his eternal judgment will be by how he treats Williams, Drieman, Frankford, and others.
In his "Summary of Events at Port Austin," Edwards writes under point 6, "The government [of the Port Austin Sabbatarian Church Community] will be firmly bound to implement the plan for SEE as laid out in this and future documents.…There was never any jointly written plan for the project other than Edwards’ articles and Williams' one article on SEAL (heavily edited by Edwards)." Then under point 7, Edwards’ writes, "The fundamental issue that has caused the rift between Drieman/Frankford/Williams and Edwards is which of the above two points are most important. Was the project to be whatever four men decided it would be? Or, was it to implement the specific plans outlined in Edwards’ and Williams’ writings?"
Although Edwards actually answers the question he raises in point 7 of his Summary when he writes in his letter dated January 25, 2005, that "SEE has now been cancelled by Frankford, Drieman and Williams, a majority of its founders, as evidenced by an affidavit signed November 30, 2004 and recorded at Liber 1085, page 693 at the Huron County Register of Deeds," the larger answer is that SEE and SEAL could never be implemented on the former Air Base at Port Austin. In the writings of Edwards that Edwards references in point 6 of his Summary, SEAL is an integral part of SEE that the PASCC government was to implement. And an integral part of SEAl is the agricultural program. Again, if Williams had known in advance—and Williams, Frankford and Drieman employed Edwards to research these matters—that he could not raise organic crops and fowl on the former Air Base, he would have had no interest in the property. But this information had to be concealed from him until he had exhausted his financial resources in order for the scam to be successful.
In simple terms, if Edwards had not withheld information, no sale would have occurred, for Edwards in his January 21, 2004 letter to Hawkins and Potts acknowledges that he doesn’t have the money to buy the property himself. Thus, because the property could not be used for its intended purpose, no sale would have occurred.
In his letter to me, dated January 25, 2005, Edwards acknowledges that he had no authority over SEE that could override the majority wishes/votes of the original four trustees. He was, as far as the government he helped establish at Port Austin, bound by majority rule. Yet he usurped authority far beyond what love for his neighbors allowed to disqualify the other three trustees and to take assets to himself. As I have written before, he coveted the property, and he stole it. But worse, he participated in swindling Williams from the beginning. It is unreasonable to assume that he didn’t know that Williams could not have animals and could not raise organic crops on the property for which Williams was paying. So by his dogmatism, his eternal judgment will, indeed, be by how he has treated his neighbor, the person who paid the postage for him to mail out his last issues of Servants’ News in which he writes that he will play with the kids for a while.
The coincidence of Warwick Potts announcing that he will move to Illinois and of Edwards sending out his last (at least for a year and a half) issue of Servants’ News suggests that both knew that Edwards would be replacing Potts as caretaker of the former Air Base, where neither crops can be grown, nor fowl raised, nor tuition charged. Really, Frankford’s development of industry is the only permitted activity, and Frankford was the first trustee that Edwards arbitrarily disqualified. Frankford, by his development of industry, was walking legally before the laws of man and God.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."