UP SHORT: The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks to the press from his New York office in this 2002 photo after a dispute involving the National Action Network’s offices in the Empire State Building. Sharpton was evicted for not paying rent for six months. Now The Peabody hotel is suing Sharpton and NAN for “past due and unpaid” services. –
AP PHOTO/ED BAILEY
The South’s Grand Hotel is trying to collect a grand sum of money it claims is owed by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s nonprofit civil rights group.
The Peabody hotel has filed a lawsuit in Shelby County Circuit Court against Sharpton’s National Action Network seeking payment of almost $70,300, plus more than $17,000 in attorney’s fees and other costs. The lawsuit, which puts the total close to $88,000, was filed Tuesday, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.
The tab stems from an April 2008 visit to Memphis by Sharpton and NAN, which held its 2008 national convention in the city coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Representatives of The Peabody declined to comment on the litigation, and a spokesman for NAN could not be reached for comment by press time.
Waiting for payment
The complaint filed by the hotel does not spell out if the outstanding debt is a final tab that was never paid, the remaining portion of a bill or some other amount in dispute. Documentation for the agreement between the hotel and Sharpton’s group includes an attrition clause. If the group ended up using less than it booked from the hotel, new charges would be incurred.
“The plaintiff furnished and sold services, room rentals, materials and merchandise to the defendant at its specific instance and request and ... (the) amount remains past due and unpaid after demand for payment has been made and payment has been refused,” according to the complaint.
Among documents included in the court filing is an official Peabody hotel event application with two authorized signatures for the NAN arrangement – Sharpton’s and Charlie King’s. King is identified in the documents as national director of NAN. Chase Bank is given as a bank reference requested by the hotel, and the Sheraton New York at 811 Seventh Ave. is listed as a hotel where the group has held functions in the past two years.
A copy of the group’s contract with The Peabody shows NAN reserved space for April 1 through April 7. The hotel offered to provide NAN with one complimentary room night for every 50 rooms used on a given night, according to contract terms sent in October 2007 for King to review.
King ran in the 2006 New York attorney general’s race won by Andrew Cuomo.
Sharpton, a former presidential candidate, preacher, civil rights activist and president of NAN, called the 2008 convention in Memphis the first his group had held outside New York since its formation in the 1990s. Sharpton organized his group’s convention in the city – which included a “recommitment march” to the Lorraine Motel, site of the National Civil Rights Museum – at a time when tens of thousands of visitors and scores of celebrities were crowding the city.
Visitors to the Lorraine Motel, the site where King was assassinated in 1968, included crews for the major nightly news broadcasts as well as then-presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton.
In a speech given in front of the motel to a crowd gathered in the rain, McCain recounted how he was imprisoned in North Vietnam’s infamous “Hanoi Hilton” when the guards told McCain and his fellow prisoners about King’s death.
“You couldn’t keep me out of Memphis this week,” PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley, another of the visitors, told The Daily News at the time.
Standing in front of Room 306 at the Lorraine, Sharpton spoke to NBC anchor Brian Williams one afternoon during that week and shared his thoughts about visiting the famed motel. On the balcony outside Room 306 is where King was standing when he was shot and killed.
“It was the first time we saw America officially say there were two Americas,” Sharpton told Williams, according to a transcript of the interview.