COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The former owner of a sober-living program in the Franklin County area of Ohio has been banned from charity work and his nonprofits have been dissolved, after years spent investigating financial exploitation and abuse claims, according to the Ohio attorney general.
Dave Yost said Thursday that Charles “Chuck” Kirk, director of Summer Rays Inc., and Reynoldsburg Revolve Church, and some members of his family all faced a combined $90,000 in fines for restitution, civil damages, and providing false and misleading information. A judge also permanently banned Kirk from directly or indirectly creating or working for a nonprofit in Ohio.
With around 100 recovering addicts living in his Summer Rays properties, Kirk required them to pay a weekly program fee between $100 to $150 and attend weekly church services and meetings while abstaining from drugs and alcohol. However, Yost said there was no formal counseling or plan for each resident to finish and leave the program.
Among accusations of abuse, Yost said Kirk used the recovering alcoholics and drug addicts living in the Summer Rays sober-living properties as cheap labor. Kirk would pay them in cash, or discount their program fee in exchange for working for the family’s side businesses, such as Rev Cafe inside their church, and did not track the residents’ working hours or issue paychecks, according to the attorney general.
“This is more than just a philanthropy pitfall,” Yost said. “Chuck Kirk used his absolute control over the finances of Summer Rays and RRC to rip off the individuals he claimed to want to help. Charities are not to be confused with family businesses.”
As residents worked for little or no pay in his businesses and paid into the sober-living program, Yost said Kirk’s family got to live in a house financed by Summer Rays. Kirk also let two of his daughters live rent-free in Summer Rays addict housing, with no other recovering residents inside, while they attended college.
Alongside the penalties a Franklin County judge ordered Kirk and his family to pay, the attorney general’s lawsuit got back more than $1 million in mortgage loans and overdue real estate taxes. The lawsuit also netted $248,000 to pay back any Summer Rays’ residents and workers who file wage-and-hour claims and damages.
While the attorney general previously shut down Summer Rays in July 2018 as the accusations came to light, its residents could stay and the sober living program got permission to keep operating with new management later that month. With the recent completion of court-ordered work dissolving the Summer Rays nonprofit and Kirk’s church, however, the program is no more.