Bars not thwarting York's progress
Athens Banner-Herald/September 16, 2002
By Stephen Gurr
Being in federal custody for the past four months hasn't kept
religious sect leader Dwight ''Malachi'' York from going forward
with plans to open a book store on West Broad Street.
Last week Athens-Clarke County officials issued a standard
business occupation tax certificate in York's name, or rather his
alias of Malachi Z. York. The sometimes-resident of Athens has
been jailed in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary awaiting trial
since his arrest in May on federal charges of transporting minors
across state lines for the purpose of sex. York, 56, is also
facing state charges after a Putnam County grand jury indicted
York on 120 counts of child molestation and related charges.
Progress at the building at the corner of West Broad and South
Church streets has gone at a glacial pace since it was deeded to
York for $385,000 in March 2000. Workers transformed the former
Ideal Amusements building into a quasi-Moorish structure complete
with Egyptian hieroglyphics carved into the facade, and after
months of inactivity, workers have been seen almost daily loading
boxes, sometimes from a transfer truck.
Last week county officials received a registration form signed
by York for the mandatory business occupation tax, Athens-Clarke
Finance Director John Culpepper said.
''Wherever he was when he signed it, I don't know,'' Culpepper
Culpepper stressed that a business occupation tax certificate
does not amount to a business license. County officials have
little regulatory powers over the business except to make sure the
stated business complies with zoning regulations.
The business at 815 W. Broad St. has been registered as ''Holy
Tabernacle Store, Malachi Z. York, owner.'' In the late 1990s York
owned a store by the same name in Savannah, which is apparently no
longer in business.
A call to the number listed in the Athens-Clarke documents as
the business phone resulted in a fax dial tone.
An employee answering the telephone at All Eyes On Egypt,
another York-founded store near Georgia Square Mall, said she
couldn't comment on the West Broad Street store. She referred
inquiries to Cheryl Lampkin, who was unavailable for comment
Friday. York's followers, known collectively as Nuwaubians, have
generally declined to talk to the news media, particularly since
their leader was arrested.
While York has paid his business occupation tax, the new store
is far from being ready for business, according to building
''They don't have a certificate of occupancy,'' said Ken Hix,
Athens-Clarke director of building inspections and permits. There
have been no interior inspections of electrical wiring and
plumbing, and the last exterior inspection was in May, he said.
''I haven't had contact with anyone over there in several
months,'' Hix said.
According to public records, for a time York and his partner
Kathy Johnson operated a thriving mail-order business from his
mansion on Mansfield Court, flouting county zoning ordinances.
After several neighbors complained, inspectors toured the area and
found more than a dozen women working at computers in the house.
The activity eventually ceased.
After York's arrest, federal agents served a search warrant at
the house and seized $125,000 in cash, authorities said.
A federal trial date has not been set for York, who was denied
bond, U.S. Attorney's office spokeswoman Pam Lightsey said this
week. U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson's next term of court
is in November.
York also faces a $1 billion civil suit filed by the father of
one of the alleged victims.