John Gray is fighting back. Or, at least, his church is.
The embattled pastor’s Relentless Church has filed a counterclaim against a disgruntled former employee who sued for tens of thousands of dollars in allegedly unpaid wages. Travis Hayes, who served as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Relentless Church before resigning last month, claimed in his lawsuit that Gray has refused to pay him more than $75,000. Hayes’ lawsuit was filed weeks after Relentless Church’s landlord took steps to evict Gray’s house of worship from the property in Greenville, South Carolina.
Relentless’ countersuit, filed on Friday, denies Hayes’ claims and “details how the former Redemption Church employee had an excessive compensation package structure that was carried over from Redemption without the consent of the Relentless Church board of directors or the knowledge of Pastor John Gray,” according to a press release that included a link to the counterclaim filed in the court of common pleas.
But the press release also seems to suggest that Hayes and Redemption Church — which owns the property where Relentless Church is housed — may have colluded with each other to inflate rent charges in what ultimately resulted in an effort to remove Gray’s church through eviction.
Relentless’ counterclaim “sets a timeline of interactions between Hayes, Redemption Church and The Relentless Church – including his continued interactions with Redemption Church and Ron and Hope Carpenter,” the press release said. “Based on the timeline in the counterclaim, Hayes provided confidential information to Redemption; often signed unauthorized contracts for both Relentless and Redemption churches while employed by The Relentless Church; and agreed to a 133-percent rent increase for The Imagine Center under the authority of Ron Carpenter and against the advisement of The Relentless Church attorneys, without a new lease in place.”
The Imagine Center is the sports and fitness facility operated on the property leased by Relentless Church for which Redemption Church said that it had to take over debt to avoid going into foreclosure.
Hayes spent 20 years as the chief financial officer for Ron and Hope Carpenter’s Redemption Church, and he stayed in Greenville when the Carpenters relocated to California to take over a church in San Jose. According to his lawsuit, he became the chief financial officer for Relentless and was promoted to chief operating officer back in March or April of 2019.
Just this past November, Hayes said he was reassigned to be the director of special projects and that Gray explained that his pay would remain the same. However, Hayes said he decided to resign “on his observation of certain going-ons at Relentless which caused him material ethical and business concerns,” his lawsuit says.
The counterclaim’s legal documents filed by Relentless Church paint a very different picture of Hayes, who is accused of getting paid from both Relentless and Redemption through apparently duplicitous means.
“Hayes, acting as the sole authority, and without permission, set up the accounting records with Relentless to reflect that he had greater salary and benefits than with Redemption,” the counterclaim says in part. “Hayes not only had it set up to have the Relentless Church pay for his house payments, grass cutting and lawn care payments, pool loan payments, all utilities payments, and car payments for he and his wife, but also still claimed a $20,000.00 per year “housing allowance” without getting approval from Pastor Gray or any Relentless Church board or authority.”
The nature of Relentless’ lease, which is at the center of the possible eviction it is facing, was also called into question in the counterclaim. What was initially an $18,000 monthly rental fee ballooned to more than twice that amount because, according to the counterclaim, Carpenter was trying to find ways to help pay for inflating costs associated with related and separate real estate ventures.
“Carpenter, and his representatives, without permission of Gray or his employees, informed Hayes that the new monthly payment would be over $40,000.00,” the counterclaim states. “In spite of his position as CFO of Relentless, Hayes never produced any documentation that this increased amount was legally required to be paid.”
When Relentless hired a new chief financial officer and demoted Hayes, the counterclaim says he refused to cooperate with requests “to justify his extensive benefits and compensation.”
While Gray took steps to fire him, Hayes resigned before the termination was complete, leading to his lawsuit against Relentless.
The counterclaim was filed one week before Relentless was scheduled to appear in court to explain why the eviction is not merited. However, the court date fr this coming Friday has been delayed because of what the Greenville News described as “a bit of legal maneuvering.” Relentless retained the legal services of South Carolina State Representative Bruce Bannister, who is also an attorney, prompting the court to grant the delay because state law mandates that legislative sessions take precedence.
As of Wednesday morning, it was unclear when the eviction case would resume.
The counterclaim was the latest episode in what’s been a tumultuous past 18 months for Gray. Prior to his church facing eviction and Hayes’ lawsuit, Gray was operating under a cloud of controversy, whether it was merited or not.
He was called out in April for wearing a pair of expensive Nike Air Yeezys, which retail in the area of about $4,000 and higher, before he defended an even bigger extravagance: buying his wife a Lamborghini Urus, which is priced around $200,000, for their eight-year anniversary. He also denied plundering money from the church treasury to purchase the vehicle.
Gray, whose net worth is estimated to be about $7 million, also lives in a home that was purchased by Relentless Church for $1.8 million.
The drama in Gray’s life hasn’t been limited to money. In case you missed it, Gray told the women of “The Real” in March, “Over a year ago, my wife and I were in a very difficult place in our marriage, and in that time, I began to converse with someone — other than a counselor, other than a pastoral leader, which is where I should have taken my issues and challenges — and began to converse, and I was even in the presence of that person one time. But being in the presence of someone is not the same as sleeping with them. I did not sleep with anyone.”
Aside from that, Gray also came under fire for vehemently defended his association with Donald Trump.
Finally, it was announced that Gray’s TV show, “The Book of John Gray,” would not be renewed for a new season by the Oprah Winfrey Network.