PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Operators of a Haiti orphanage have sued journalist Mitch Albom and one of his charities, claiming the best-selling author broke terms of an agreement about running the orphanage after the devastating January 2010 earthquake.
The Caring and Sharing Mission charity and its founder, the Rev. John Hearn of the Detroit suburb of Inkster, filed a lawsuit this week claiming the Detroit Free Press columnist and his A Hole in the Roof Foundation didn't follow an operating agreement they entered into with the Port-au-Prince mission after the quake.
The lawsuit filed in Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac seeks $2.5 million in damages.
Lawyer Eric Scheible, speaking on behalf of Albom and his charity, described the lawsuit as "frivolous" and an extortion attempt.
"A Hole in the Roof Foundation has supported the Caring and Sharing Mission in every manner possible— from staff to food to the shoes on children's feet. It continues to do so today," Scheible said in a statement.
The lawsuit claims that Albom approached Hearn and his charity after the earthquake and offered to raise money. It says Albom has tried to take control of the mission and didn't explain what was done with money for the orphanage.
Scheible said, however, that the foundation's financial statements and tax returns are posted online. Chad Audi, director of the A Hole in the Roof Foundation, said in a statement that the lawsuit is "without merit."
"Our lone focus is the children who benefit from the medical, nutritional, educational and spiritual assistance we help provide in a safe and nurturing environment," Audi said. "The fact Mitch Albom is mentioned specifically in the lawsuit is an attempt at publicity and public embarrassment."
The earthquake killed hundreds of Haitians and damaged hundreds of buildings in Port-au-Prince and in other cities to the south. The orphanage reportedly wasn't damaged in the earthquake, but was described as being in poor condition at the time.
Albom has written several books, including the 1997 best-seller "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Time Keeper," published this month. He hosts a talk show on Detroit radio station WJR-AM and appears on ESPN's "Sports Reporters" and "SportsCenter" shows.