Imhotep Charter attorney claims CEO ouster set stage for retaliatory lawsuit

     Chris 'Mama Chris' Wiggins was outed as CEO of Imhotep Institute Charter High School in June. (NewsWorks, file art)

    Chris 'Mama Chris' Wiggins was outed as CEO of Imhotep Institute Charter High School in June. (NewsWorks, file art)

    Frivolous. Retaliatory.

    That’s how attorney George Gossett described a Common Pleas Court lawsuit filed last week alleging that Imhotep Institute Charter High School owes a closely aligned nonprofit $1.2 million in rent, interest and fees.

    “The school is not in default with regard to rental payments,” said Gossett.

    The details

    In 2007, Sankofa Network Inc., which owns the school’s East Germantown campus on North 21st Street, took out a multi-million dollar construction loan and line of credit essentially on behalf of Imhotep.

    Sharon Wilson, who is representing Sankofa, has said the suit was filed after the nonprofit was told by the bank that Imhotep was delinquent.

    Gossett refutes that characterization and maintains that, to date, Imhotep has only been asked to pay interest on the loan.

    He said the school has the money and that the loan simply needs to be reworked with Sankofa.

    Change at the top

    Christina Wiggins, known around the school as Mama Chris, founded Imhotep and, until June, served as its CEO.

    “Before Chris Wiggins’ contract was not renewed, [the sides] had a pretty decent relationship with regards to Imhotep,” said Gossett. “After her contract was not renewed, then Sankofa completely stopped all meaningful cooperation and communication.”

    Sankofa Network is run Tameka Thomas-Bowman, Wiggins’ daughter.

    Gossett said the suit is, in part, about payback for Wiggins’ ouster.

    The suit is the latest hit for a school that’s perhaps best known for being a powerhouse for football and basketball.

    In addition to Imhotep’s board not offering Wiggins another contract, the Philadelphia School District is also looking into recent standardized test scores as part of a statewide cheating investigation.

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