Bakker Denounces PTL Counterclaim Against Him As ‘Propaganda’
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The PTL television ministry filed a claim Monday seeking $52.8 million from former leader Jim Bakker, his wife and a former aide for alleged mismanagement and unjustified compensation.
″The magnitude of financial abuses found are such that they cannot be tolerated and should not be ignored. All assets that have been lost to the PTL ministry must be recovered for its benefit,″ said PTL bankruptcy trustee David Clark.
But Bakker, who filed a claim in September that says PTL owes him and his wife, Tammy, $1.3 million, said the PTL claim is futile because they are nearly broke.
″I think it’s more for propaganda than anything else; they’re continuing to try to discredit us so they can keep us from coming back,″ Bakker said in a telephone interview from his home in Palm Springs, Calif.
″We don’t even own a home,″ Bakker said. ″We’ve lost everything. We’re down to just a few thousand dollars to live.″
The PTL suit is a counterclaim to the Bakker filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court here. Of the $52.8 million it seeks, $45.9 million stems from alleged mismanagement of PTL money by Bakker and former aide David Taggart. The remainder represents unjustified compensation and benefits paid the Bakkers and Taggart and cash advances obtained by Bakker and Taggart on PTL credit cards, the claim says.
″We are seeking to recover for the ministry the actual losses which we feel these individuals have caused. We are not seeking punitive damages, and we don’t want retribution, just restitution,″ Clark told The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.
Bankruptcy Judge Rufus Reynolds named Clark trustee in November, after the Fort Mill television ministry and theme park filed for reorganization and protection from creditors it owed more than $60 million.
In December, Reynolds approved a reorganization plan for the ministry, and Clark has said the ministry needs to increase donations from its viewers and supporters to meet its obligations.
Bakker left the ministry in March amid a scandal over a 1980 sexual encounter with former church secretary Jessica Hahn. Taggart, who was Bakker’s top personal aide, was dismissed from PTL in April. Reached at home, Taggart declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, Ben Cotten, whose office said he was not in.
In addition to the $45.9 million sought from Bakker and Taggart for losses allegedly caused by mismanagement, the claim seeks $4.9 million from Bakker for unjustified compensation and benefits, including $363,700 paid to Ms. Hahn and her representatives; $749,199 from Taggart in unjustified compensation and benefits; $702,691 from Mrs. Bakker for unjustified compensation and benefits; and $618,000 from Bakker and Taggart for cash advances using PTL credit cards.
Bakker said he looks forward to a courtroom confrontation ″to clear our name. We would use that forum to document what we did or did not do.″
Clark said the lawsuit, which focuses on 1984 to 1987, follows Reynolds’ earlier order that Clark’s lawyers investigate financial practices that occurred at PTL while the Bakkers were in charge.
Meanwhile, a federal grand jury in Charlotte, N.C., is investigating Bakker and some of his top aides for possible mail, wire and tax fraud.