Tzu Chi wants Elshot’s school off its property

POSTED: 08/10/16 3:05 PM

St.maarten– The Court in First Instance rules on Friday morning on a dispute between the
Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation and Claire Elshot. Tzu Chi wants Elshot to vacate a building on its property that she uses for the ACE Foundation School for undocumented children because she is $19,500 behind in rent payments.

Attorney Hedi Kockx told the court yesterday morning that before she moved into an empty building on the Tzu Chi property on L.B. Scott Road she had been forced to leave another building due to $20,000 in rent arrears.

Tzu Chi offered its building in 2013 for $1,000 a month, half of the price Elshot paid at her previous location. “She paid a deposit and one month rent. After that, nothing has been paid anymore,” Kockx said.

Tzu Chi has asked the court permission to evict the ACE Foundation from its premises. “There was never an agreement that this would be permanent or that there was no obligation to pay,” the attorney said, adding that the organization had never forbidden Elshot to host fund raising activities – except for bingo (because Tzu Chi opposes gambling) and barbecues (because Tzu Chi opposes the sale of meat).

“The defendant is responsible for her income, but she prefers to hold up her hand,” Kockx pointed out. “There are insufficient donations to fill any gap. We have allowed the school to finish its 2015 school year, but without any financial support from Tzu Chi.”

Kockx said that Elshot had been made aware of the termination of the lease contract in a timely manner and that she had had enough time to look for an alternative location. “However, she prefers to stick her head in the sand. It is incomprehensible that someone keeps demanding donations without putting up one dollar herself. We are asking the court permission to vacate the building.”

Elshot, who arrived ten minutes late for the court hearing citing parking issues, told the court that she had asked for a postponement of the court case, because she had received documents from the opposing party only on Monday. She told the court that she had paid $14,000 on the rent arrears to her previous landlord and denied that she prefers living from handouts.

When Elshot went into a lengthy discourse about the history of her school Judge Sander van Rijen intervened: “You have not paid your rent for a very long time. How do you want to solve that? The $19,500 in rent arrears are sufficient for a dissolution of the contract in a regular court procedure; in summary proceedings it is enough to allow eviction.”

Elshot said that a barbecue had yielded almost $5,000 and that she had $4,000 with her.

According to Elshot, the ACE foundation casters to around 40 students and that she expects more to come in for the next school year that begins next Monday.

“But how do you want to do that Madame, if you are unable to pay your rent?” Judge Van Rijen asked.

Elshot said that the Social Development fund has promised ACE funding per January 1 of next year and that she intends to keep parents current with the payment of their school fees.

“If I agree with Tzu Chi, where will all those children go?” the judge then asked.

“Under a tree, on the street,” Elshot said, adding that she had asked the department of Education whether she could use the Leopold Bell School. Education Minister Jacobs has this building however earmarked for children with behavioral issues.

“I did not see coming what is happening here today,” Elshot said at the end of her address to the court.

That triggered a reaction from attorney Kockx. “Tzu chi has brought down the arrears from $35,000 to $19,500 through donations from volunteers,” she said. Mrs. Elshot did see this coming, because we announced this already in April. She asked the education department in a letter dated July 29 for an alternative location. That should have been done months ago.”

Tzu Chi did not accept a partial payment of the $4,000 Elshot had on her. “That is only a stay of execution,” Kockx said. “Our fixed expenditures remain the same. The children at the school are registered and they can easily go to other schools. The lease agreement has been terminated per July 30.”

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