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Thursday, April 21, 2011 07:15 am

Former Phoenix Center head in new financial trouble

Back taxes haunt Jack Bishop in Griggsville

Mike Palmer says he and his wife, Bev, just wanted to help the community of Griggsville when he loaned a fellow church member $10,000 to help pay back taxes on a local restaurant.

“We figured, you know, he’s Christian and everything, so we offered to loan him $10,000 on our credit card, as long as he made the payments,” Mike Palmer says. The couple charged the money to their credit card, he says, with the understanding that they would receive $200 each month in repayment. The payments came in on time from June 2010 to around November or December, Palmer recalls, but then they stopped, and so did all communication. At the time, the Palmers didn’t know they were loaning money to a man who had already left behind a much larger debt in Springfield.

That man is Jack Bishop, the former executive director of the Phoenix Center in Springfield. Bishop was accused in 2006 of lavishly spending $100,000 using credit cards belonging to the Springfield-based LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) outreach organization. Bishop was never charged with a crime, however, and he doesn’t appear to have benefited personally from his purchases. Still, the Phoenix Center board of directors removed him from his position, and Bishop sued the board for defamation – based on their comments in an Illinois Times article – before leaving town. [See “Phoenix rising,” July 12, 2006, by Dusty Rhodes at IllinoisTimes.com.]

After leaving Springfield for Griggsville, Bishop started a restaurant and has run into new financial trouble, according to Mike Palmer and Rev. Gordon Scoggan, preacher at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Griggsville, where Bishop and the Palmers continue to attend services. They say Bishop owed about $16,000 in back taxes on the restaurant, and a benefit to help Bishop pay up raised about $6,000. That’s where the Palmers’ $10,000 came in.

Is Jack Bishop a crafty conman or just a poor money manager?

“This guy’s a real crook, to my notion,” Mike Palmer says. “I didn’t know about the scandal in Springfield until after I’d done this, or this would have never taken place.”

But Rev. Scoggan defends Bishop as simply someone who “has had a very unfortunate past” that just won’t go away.

“Things in his life were not good, and he knows that, and he’s changed his life over drastically,” Scoggan says of Bishop. “He’s trying to put his life back on track, but there are certain people who have made an effort to keep him from doing so, to try to destroy his character by bringing up his past.”

Scoggan says he knows about Bishop’s past in Springfield, but he trusts Bishop anyway.

“All I know is Jack Bishop has had financial problems, and he very much tried to run an upfront business. His financial dealings were not about anything for himself. They were about doing things to benefit others. That’s kind of what got him in trouble with the restaurant. He cares so much about his people that he did not always make wise financial decisions. That’s just what his makeup really is.”

And while Palmer maintains that he loaned Bishop the $10,000, Scoggan contends the money was understood to be a gift. “Jack asked him not to do it, and Mike said he wanted to do it,” Scoggan recalls. “The deal was he gave the money voluntarily, and Mr. Bishop said he would try to pay the money back, and of course he was not able to. Some unfortunate things happened, and Mr. Palmer decided to get really nasty about it.”

There was no contract, both parties agree, and Palmer’s attorney, David Shaw of Pittsfield, says Palmer may sue Bishop.

Bishop did not return phone calls seeking comment. 
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