Ex-Layton Christian Academy employees deny charges, file countersuit
Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner
FARMINGTON — The four former Layton Christian Academy employees targeted in a lawsuit for allegedly diverting school funds to their own pockets are lashing back, saying they’re the victims of a smear campaign that stems, allegedly, from jealousy.
In responding to the lawsuit filed last January by Christian Life Center against Greg Miller, Karen Miller, Jared Miller and Lexie Miller, the family denies the charges levied against them. The Christian Life Center is the non-denominational Layton church that operates Layton Christian Academy.
But they go further, countersuing Christian Life Center and its leadership including Pastor Myke Crowder and his son Chris Crowder, charging them with unfairly forcing the Millers out of the church and school. Greg and Karen Miller are a married couple, Jared Miller is the couple’s son and Lexie Miller is Jared’s wife. All four had top posts with LCA.
“The Millers tenure at Christian Life Center and Layton Christian Academy came to an abrupt end after Myke and Chris devised and carried out their secret, dubious plan to smear and tarnish the Millers’ reputation, oust them… under false pretenses and cause them to be shunned by the community,” reads the counterclaim, filed March 13 in 2nd District Court. “Myke’s and Chris’s underhanded plan included vexatious litigation, premised on lies and deceit, in an attempt to coerce and intimidate the Millers.”
The Millers were fired from LCA on Jan. 30 amid allegations outlined in the initial Jan. 23 lawsuit that they were diverting student fees and other money meant for the school into their own bank accounts. Greg and Karen Miller were LCA administrators, handling day-to-day operations, while Jared Miller was the secondary school principal and Lexie Miller was an advisor to students.
Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner
The suit also accused the Millers of scheming to use trade secrets, confidential information and international student recruiting contacts to open a new school in Florida that would cater to international students and put LCA’s existence in jeopardy.
“Christian Life Center has yet to understand or fully comprehend the true scope of the Millers’ nefarious, underhanded, clandestine conspiracy. But at this point, the church knows that the Millers have been diverting students — and their tuition dollars — to their own business entity, Venture,” reads the original suit.
The Millers reject the allegations, and in their countersuit they paint a distinctly different picture — that they helped build LCA into what it is and have been key to its survival over the years. Among other things, their complaint accuses the church of defamation, invasion of privacy and illegal eviction from their homes, variously leased or owned by Christian Life Center.
“Since 1994, Greg and Karen, along with Jared, Lexie and others, have turned the Layton Christian Academy from a small K-6 elementary school to a thriving K-12 educational institution where children can excel in academics and sports,” the countersuit reads.
As described in the countersuit, the Millers helped keep the school thriving during the economic downturn of the late 2000s, when its future viability seemed in doubt, by recruiting international students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, which also threatened the school’s future, the Millers helped by creating an online educational program.
“The online school system proved to be successful and a way for Layton Christian Academy to continue expanding its reach and generate additional funds to allow Layton Christian Academy to continue operation during the pandemic,” the countersuit reads. From August 2020 through October 2022, the online school generated more than $440,000 for the school.
The countersuit maintains that Myke Crowder, the church pastor, was jealous of funds generated from the online initiative that Greg and Karen Miller were able to set aside for their retirement, which seems to be a central point of contention.
“In a spate of envy, Myke expressed he wished he had the same arrangement he agreed to with Greg Miller,” the countersuit reads. “In an ironic twist, instead of working toward that end, the Crowders, Christian Life Center and Layton Christian Academy demonstrated wrath, pride and avarice and ousted the Millers from Layton Christian Academy and Christian Life Center while maintaining the online program created by the Millers and coveted by the Crowders.”
The countersuit says Greg Miller and Myke Crowder had discussed creation of the online program informally, “(a)s was typical,” and that Crowder approved plans to go forward with it. Miller also told Crowder at the time that a “portion of the profits” from the online school would be tapped to help fund his and his wife’s retirement.
The original suit filed by Christian Life Center describes things differently. All revenue earned by the online program, it says, was to have gone to LCA, with the potential of retirement funding for the Millers an issue to be addressed “far in the future.”
As for the defamation allegations, the countersuit cites several alleged instances when church officials and others falsely asserted that Jared Miller solicited prostitutes while in Las Vegas, Nevada, for a basketball tournament. It also cites instances when church leaders allegedly accused the Millers of taking as much as $2 million from Layton Christian Academy.
In the initial Christian Life Center lawsuit, the church seeks in excess of $2 million in damages and court orders prohibiting the Millers from using confidential information obtained as church employees to “unlawfully” compete against LCA. In their countersuit, the Millers seek damages in excess of $300,000.