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Also, the deal is structured in such a way that Security Savings gets the first taste from sale of the property. Security Savings, the agreement reads, would receive $1.6 million, plus $2.35 per square foot. Sharing what's left would be Tri-City (70 percent) and Trinity (30 percent).
Trinity's plans for the land are unclear. The company submitted a proposal to the city of Independence last December to build shops, a hotel, a restaurant and a bank at the corner of Valley View and Little Blue parkways, but the plan was later withdrawn. Trinity has also inquired about tax-increment financing.
The sale, such as it is, was approved by a vote of the congregation.
"We got a good price for it," says Dave Hawkins (who is no longer a deacon). "It's kind of a tiered deal. You know, it's actually more than what I expected to get. It hasn't all come to fruition yet. It's a staged deal."
Pressed for details, Hawkins says, "I think the public information is that it's an $18 million purchase price. I don't know the intricacies of it, but it's a certain amount at one period of time and then more later and more later, et cetera. It might be a two- or three-year deal, I don't know."
Whatever church members have been told, what was theirs is now in the hands of a private company run by Herbster allies.
Mark Bainbridge, a church member and Herbster confidant, was made privy to correspondence between Trinity's development consultant, Jim Harpool, and the city of Independence, records show. Bainbridge is the president of a nonprofit organization, International Development Corporation, that reincorporated around the time that Trinity came into being. One former church member who has looked at the transactions imagines a scenario in which Herbster becomes "pastor emeritus" of Tri-City and lands in a new nest feathered by the proceeds of church-property development.
Herbster is already at the helm of a new political organization, Advance USA, which has joined with Focus on the Family and other conservative groups in calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage and for an end to Senate filibusters against court nominees. "He's got a lot more interest in lobbying than he does in pastoring his church," the former member says of Herbster.
Church officials refuse to discuss the arrangement. Gene Ruiz did not return repeated phone calls. Bainbridge declined to comment, as did Ron Leeper, a deacon who is chairman of the church's finance committee.
"I won't be the one that helps you understand that," Leeper said when asked about transactions.
Don Bell tells the Pitch in a brief phone interview that Herbster is a "close friend" and a "wonderful Christian brother."
But Bell is unwilling to discuss loans and land deals.
"You and I, I'm told, we're not on the same wavelength," Bell says. "I wanted to give you the courtesy to call you. Everything's been done upright, and everything's in good stead. Any land transactions, I guess you can go to the county building or somewhere, if you chose. You're an American."
Then Bell quotes from the Bible.
"You know, everything -- everything -- in the heavens and earth are yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. So we get to live in this beautiful place called the United States of America because He placed us here. And I'm so honored. So we give God glory. Did someone give you a copy of our story, my wife and I, the book?"