From Staff Reports
State Representative Juandalynn Givan continues to search for answers in the sudden closing of the George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens Cemetery. The cemetery where civil rights martyr Virgil Ware is buried and where his father was buried closed a month ago. It is also the final resting place of Erica Arrington, the daughter of Richard Arrington Jr., the first African American Mayor of the City of Birmingham.
On Wednesday before the funeral for James Ware Sr., the manager on site told employees that the cemetery was closing and that the final funeral would be that Saturday. She couldn’t say what comes next. George Washington Carver Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries in the state, closed without any prior notice to their customers or patrons who have family members buried there, or who have purchased burial plots or graves for future burial services.
The phone has been disconnected at George Washington Carver Memorial Gardens. The office was closed Thursday morning and one of the gates was locked. Neighbors and frequent visitors say it’s usually open at that time of day. A number of customers are worried about what the future holds for their departed loved ones and for prepaid cemetery plots. Many carloads of concerned customers have shown up looking for answers, but there was no one from the management to greet them. The citizens are outraged by the blatant malfeasance and breach of fiduciary duty of the owner.
Records with the Alabama Department of Insurance show that Carver Cemetery has been operating without the necessary Certificate of Authority or Endowment Trust. Under Alabama law, funeral homes and cemeteries are required to maintain a log of all preneed merchandise and services sales. Endowment care cemeteries are required to maintain a log of all cemetery property sales. A preneed entity that is a combination funeral home/cemetery must maintain both logs. The logs should show all transactions made since April 30, 2002. All funeral homes and endowment care cemeteries had until April 1, 2010, to construct the log(s) with all historical information from April 30, 2002 to the end of the 2009 calendar year. The logs must be available for inspection as of April 1, 2010. There is also no record of an Annual Endowment Trust report being filed with the State. The President and CEO of Carver, Louie Reese III, is represented by attorney Andrew J. Potts with Baker Donaldson, one of the biggest firms in the state and Fred Garfield of Spain Gillon. State Representative Juandalynn Givan has spoken with the Governor’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and the Department of insurance. Each has begun looking into this matter. “The people affected by this matter are absolutely distraught and feel they have been ripped off and defrauded. “ This situation has left many citizens emotionally distraught, said Givan “ Givan states that the keys issues are as follows for many of the affected citizens: 1. What happens to the thousands of dollars paid by these consumers. Who will honor the burials. 2. Who will maintain the grounds and graves that have been paid for. If the owner has violated any laws.
3. If the state failed to regulate and govern over the cemetery.