USVEI evicted from office building

The U.S. Veterans Educational Institute has been evicted from its headquarters building on Logan Boulevard for chronic late payment of rent, according to the lawyer for the building owner.

Tombalak Realty LLC filed a “complaint for confession of judgment for possession” Friday, and USVEI staff left Monday, according to Tombalak attorney Dan Stants and Tombalak’s owner, who declined to provide his name.

USVEI remains “very much still in business,” however, said its Chairman Dennis Butts on Wednesday.

Based on the terms of the lease, the “confession of judgment” automatically conferred possession on the landlord, even though USVEI was only 10 days late on its $2,800-a-month rent, according to Stants and the court filing, which asked for “judgment against the defendant in ejectment.”

The ejectment wasn’t a hasty action, according to Stants.

“It’s not just that my client [the landlord] up and decided because they were late this month [to] kick him out,” Stants said. “Late payments were a problem throughout the time the tenant occupied the building.”

Butts offered a different perspective.

“USVEI voluntarily ended the lease on very agreeable terms with the landlord,” Butts wrote in an email to the Mirror. “[It] was settled between the landlord and USVEI on last Friday, April 11, 2014, after only ten days being past due and having been current every month since the lease began.”

Butts declined to say where USVEI headquarters is located now, although the company still appears to have possession of the former Ramada Altoona Conference Center, which was originally part of Butts’ plans.

The loss of the Logan Boulevard building, which was listed as the company’s “development center” on its website, is one of a series of setbacks that followed a grand news conference Jan. 4 to announce a multi-pronged initiative to help veterans.

The initiatives were to include a free live-in school for college-level learning at the former Bon Secours hospital campus, a lab at the campus to develop and patent innovative technologies to support the school, a backup data center at Bon Secours for critical Washington, D.C., agency information, a deployment group of former special forces personnel to protect and rescue of corporate executives in dangerous parts of the world, a domestic search and rescue team, a program for putting homeless female veterans to work building houses for themselves and more.

In early March, Bon Secours property owner UPMC Altoona put the former hospital back on the market after USVEI couldn’t come up with the money to buy it before a purchase option expired – although Butts blamed title search issues and the discovery of mold in the building for the problem.

A few weeks later, at least five high officials of the company, including two who were board members and operators of the company that was to run the technology lab, left USVEI, citing lack of pay for services rendered – claims that Butts dismissed, saying they were equity partners, their services were no longer necessary or their billing was questionable.

Shortly thereafter, prior troubles that led Butts to agree to never sell registered securities in Virginia surfaced – although Butts dismissed those issues by saying the securities commission in that state dogged him unjustifiably and succeeded in pinning virtually nothing on him.

Not long after that, Clarion University, the organization’s educational partner, pulled out – with little explanation from the college and little comment from Butts.

“To me, [the eviction] follows suit with everything else,” said Joe Hughes, former executive director of events and promotions, who started in October and left in January after not being paid.

In his filing to regain possession of the USVEI headquarters building, Stants asked the court for a total judgment of $19,500, which represents the rest of the rent due on the lease, which runs until Sept. 30, plus court costs and a 15 percent attorney’s commission.

Stants hasn’t discussed with his client whether to actually pursue that money – although such a request is “standard” in such cases, Stants said.

If a new tenant begins paying rent before the USVEI lease expiration date, those payments from the new tenant would offset the money claimed from USVEI – as the landlord may not collect twice for the same rental period, Stants said.

The property is available again, the owner said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.