TAMPA (Florida Record) — A federal judge appears to have wrapped up the final issues in a case between a Tampa-area pastor and a property owner over a failed property purchase in 2015 in which the pastor claimed he was being racially discriminated against.
U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington of the U.S. District Court for Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, ordered a judgment June 15 in favor of the plaintiff, MB Reo-FL Church-2, in the case against the defendant Frank M. Bafford, for $114,448. The judgment includes approximately $37,500 in carrying costs, approximately $74,500 in attorney's fees and $2,559.49 in costs, according to Covington's 11-page order.
The attorney's fees were reduced from what MB Reo sought to recover. "This reduced amount reflects fees incurred in the prosecution of MB Reo's claims and excludes fees incurred in its attempts to sell the property while the action was pending," Covington said in her order.
Bafford, who is representing himself in the case, is founder and pastor of Tampa For Christ Church, is active in prison ministry and is author of the "You're Never Going Back" series of books for prisoners, according to the church's website.
Covington granted summary judgment last summer in favor of MB Reo, but Bafford filed an interlocutory appeal before the court could enter an order for damages. "Accordingly, this order resolves the issue of damages and awards," Covington said in her most recent order.
The case involves a fall 2015 dispute over property on North 26th Street in Tampa, in which Bafford was seeing 98 percent financing for purchase, which MB Reo said it would not accept, according to the background portion of Covington's summary judgment issued last July. "Then, on Nov. 13, 2015, Bafford submitted a fourth offer for $803,000," Covington said in the summary judgment.
"At the same time, Bafford accused MB Reo of racially discriminating against him," the July summary judgment said. "MB Reo retained counsel to respond to Bafford's charge of racial discrimination. In a letter dated Nov. 16, 2015, MB Reo's counsel set forth the reasons Bafford's offers were rejected, as well as the normal procedures MB Reo followed."
After a flurry of largely unproductive email exchanges, Bafford filed a housing discrimination notice in December 2015 with Hillsborough County, the July summary said. MB REO filed suit the following February, asking the court for quiet title, damages for slander of title and a declaratory judgment.
Bafford filed multiple interlocutory appeals after Covington handed down her summary judgment order.
In November, Covington denied a Bafford motion "pending corrections to docket and record" and "to consider all available information and evidence,"as well as for a time extension "to respond to all pending matters," saying the pastor was repeating information in five prior motions. "He does not claim an intervening change in the controlling law," Covington said in that order.
"Despite his claims of new information, Bafford does not present anything new to the court. He fails to establish any clear, manifest injustice. The court declines to reconsider its motion for summary judgment," the November order said.
Bafford filed a fourth appeal, which was dismissed sua sponte by the state's 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for lack of jurisdiction.