For the leaders of a minority trade organization with some extra office space in downtown D.C., it seemed like the Rev. Al Sharpton was the perfect tenant.
But a year and a half after the activist/MSNBC host signed a lease for his National Action Network to sublet from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, the two groups are feuding over past-due rent.
Julie Cunningham, COMTO’s president and chief executive, told us that with the lease about to expire Friday, NAN was seven months behind in its payments, a total debt of more than $28,000.
The arrangement began early last year, when COMTO vacated its office for a new space across the street; Cunningham said she put feelers out in the nonprofit community looking for someone to move in for the remaining 18 months on the lease on the original spot at 818 18th St. NW and was glad to make contact with NAN, which has organized protests and boycotts on a variety of civil rights issues.
“We were pleased that another group of similar status was coming in,” said COMTO’s board Chairman Robert Henry Prince Jr. “We didn’t know they wouldn’t be honoring their rental agreement.”
After a few months of prompt payments, NAN fell behind, Cunningham says. Lawyers got involved, and Cunningham says she wrote “friendly” letters to Sharpton and every NAN board member — to no avail.
Rachel Noerdlinger, a rep for Sharpton and NAN, denied the group was in arrears — and e-mailed us a copy of a check the group has written out to COMTO for $16,950, dated Tuesday. NAN has signed a new lease with the building to continue in that space; the check and a $10,550 security deposit should cover everything for COMTO, she said.
But Cunningham told us that if the check arrives, it won’t cover a total that includes late fees — nor the cost of office furniture that NAN leased and intends to buy from her group. Asked for comment, Noerdlinger said her group disagrees with COMTO’s numbers.
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