Restraining Order Filed to Halt Eviction Of Recreation Group

By Keith L. Alexander and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 12, 2009

An attorney for a nonprofit group run by former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry filed a temporary restraining order in D.C. Superior Court on Friday to stop a District government-led eviction of the organization from its Southeast Washington offices.

Attorney A. Scott Bolden filed the restraining order on behalf of Recreation Wish List Committee, an organization that Barry founded and that essentially runs the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, which provides recreation for D.C. youths.

On Aug. 13, the District's Office of Property Management informed the committee, which is in a city-owned building at 701 Mississippi Ave. SE, that it had until Sept. 12 to leave the premises.

The agency ordered the eviction because the committee allowed its charter as a registered corporation to expire, a violation of the 10-year lease agreement both sides entered into in 2006. Barry founded the organization in 1995 and serves as its president and chief executive.

"All efforts to have a dialogue have not been successful," Barry said. "I didn't want this. I still don't want it. I just want to continue the Wish List and to serve these families and these kids in a meaningful way."

A hearing before Judge Susan R. Winfield is set for Tuesday.

Bolden said he is hoping that Winfield will rule that the 2006 lease is binding and that evicting the committee was a breach of contract. He is also seeking court costs and attorney fees.

Bolden said he sent three letters and three e-mails seeking the city's response to the committee's desire to continue its relationship with the parks department. He said the city has been unresponsive.

In the filing, Bolden wrote that an eviction would cause "immediate, devastating and irreparable injury" to the organization's "mission of serving the District of Columbia children."

Summonses were sent to the offices of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and Peter Nickles, the city's attorney general.

Several national figures who have been involved in programs at the center, including tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams, have tried to help resolve the committee's dispute with the city. Civil rights legend Dorothy Height and renowned poet Maya Angelou have tried unsuccessfully to schedule a meeting with Fenty.

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