Montgomery Family in long-fought case to recover their property
Vulnerable female students at the troubled More Than Me (MTM) Foundation, a United States (US) backed school for disadvantaged girls in Liberia, could likely not be holding classes during the next academic year due to a lawsuit filed by the late Richard S. Montgomery’s family which claimed to be the owner of the building housing MTM, located on Ashmum Street, Monrovia.
In the last few days, MTM has been at the center of public outcry about a report from ProPublica, where the paper alleged that 10 young girls between the ages of 10 and 16 were reportedly raped by MTM liaison officer Mcintosh Johnson (now deceased).
That accusation has since led to the resignation of MTM Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Katie Meyler, who founded the American charity in 2009 to help get girls, especially those from West Point, one of the most impoverished slum communities in Liberia, from the streets and into schools.
In Montgomery’s Action for Summary Proceedings to Recover Possession of Real Property,” filed before the Civil Law Court ‘B’ at the Temple of Justice, in Monrovia, the family claimed that Richard (deceased) bought one lot in 1922 from the late John W. Cooper in keeping with the law and constructed the building there.
And, to legitimize the property, the family on October 11, 2011, registered the said property at the Probate Court at the Temple of Justice, also in Monrovia.
Prior to that, the court’s document claimed that during the 1950s and the early part of the 1960s, the Department of Justice (now the Ministry of Justice) occupied the premises as tenant based upon the consent of Richard Montgomery.
Later, the Ministry relocated and returned the building to Montgomery.
Sometime between the 50s and 60s, being a faculty member of the University of Liberia, Richard allowed the university to use the building as administrative building due to the expansion of the university at that time, until the 1980 coup.
After the coup, the family claimed that the building was occupied by military personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Richard’s wife, Elizabeth, later wrote to Head of State Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe, who led the coup and subsequently turned the building over to the Montgomery family after the intervention of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, T. Ernest Eastman (deceased).
Then the 1989 revolution launched by former President Charles Taylor caused the family to flee the country again, according to the record.
But, when they returned after the revolution, the building was then occupied by squatters, including armed persons of belligerent forces who had massively destroyed and looted the property.
In 2012, the document said, the Montgomery claimed that they received information from former Montserrado County Superintendent Madam Grace Kpan, along with the APM Terminals, that they were instructed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to renovate the building for use by More Than Me Foundation (MTM).
By then the government had common interest in the property and could not give it back to the family, the document claimed.
Besides, they and the government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that MTM should be solely responsible for liability arising out of or associated with the use of the property and shall receive no indemnification from the government or any of its auxiliaries in respect of any claim.
“We are praying the court that the so-called MOU should be disregarded because same is a mere legal nullity or does not meet the minimum requirement of a title instrument to be considered by the court,” the lawsuit maintained. “Therefore, MTM must be ejected from the property and the Montgomery family put in possession of the property with cost against MTM.”