A judge ruled this week that some of the property of Compass Academy can be sold by the court-appointed receiver, but not the partially completed school building itself.
“The Receiver should be free to sell any Property of the estate without prior leave of this Court, except the real property, which includes the partially completed building,” Judge Clifton Newman wrote in the Order to Amend filed on Tuesday in Richland County.
Columbia-based attorney Sherri Lydon was selected as the receiver of all frozen assets belonging to Compass Academy, Jonathan “Jay” Brooks, Tracy Brooks and related companies. At the top of Lydon's list was to see if the school had funds to be able to open for the coming school year.
Based on Lydon's findings, it was determined the school could not open for the 2013-2014 school year due to insufficient funds to incomplete construction and insufficient enrollment.
A hearing was held last month on Lydon's recommendation to “market and list the building and property” of Compass Academy. According to the document filed this week, Lydon is authorized to market and list any property for sale and pursue marketing of the property; however, she “may not convey, transfer, sell, pledge or encumber the real property, or any portion thereof, without prior leave of this Court after notice to all parties and a hearing.”
A group of the school's investors plan to purchase the building, complete its construction and open it as a school.
Aiken resident Jerry Rowe, one of the investors, said they were aware the school building itself is not for sale. A trailer on the school's property that served as construction office and an office for Tracy Brooks is for sale, he said.
“That portion is available for sale right now with the contents that are in it,” he said. “As far as the school, the actual land and the building itself, that has to go back to the judge before it could be sold.”
Rowe said he and the other investors still plan to purchase the building and have it operating by the 2014-2015 school year.
“We're still having meetings,” he said. “We're trying to locate funds — the hard money to purchase, and we're looking into the feasibility of purchasing the school, finishing it and opening it up for the 2014-15 school year. We're still on tap for that.”
Rowe said the investors have discussed the construction costs and phases and are trying to get an idea of tentative enrollment, which he said was not available because studies and surveys still need to be completed.
“The hard money is available for us; it's just a matter of getting it put together,” he said. “We're still believing it would be a great asset for the community, and if it's run right, the education would be superior to what's available and it would be successful.”
Jay Brooks, his wife Tracy, and Jay Brooks' companies, J. Brooks Financial and Brooks Real Estate Holdings, are accused of illegally selling unregistered securities to fund the establishment of Compass Academy. They are also accused by the Securities Division of the Attorney General's Office of using those funds to buy groceries, their home, vacations and jewelry rather than investing them.
On July 2, an order was filed approving the withdraw of Aiken attorney Stanley Jackson as counsel for Compass Academy. Jackson could not be reached for comment by press time on Thursday.
“As far as I know, there's nobody representing Compass because there is no Compass,” Rowe said. “Compass was Jay Brooks, Tracy Brooks and their ideas.”
Rowe said it's not known when the partially completed school building would be up for sale, but said the Brookses and the Compass Academy name would not be affiliated with it if it's purchased by the investors.
“If the investors buy it, it's not going to be Compass Academy,” he said. “It will have a different name. It wants no part of the Brookses.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.