JEFFERSON CITY — Mounting legal fees and what Missouri Baptist Convention leaders are calling flat Cooperative Program giving has prompted the MBC Executive Board to set a 2009 budget goal of $16.3 million, a decline of $200,000 from the 2008 goal, according to The Pathway.
The unanimous action was taken during the Executive Board’s regular April 15 meeting. Word&Way news writer Jennifer Harris attended the meeting but was asked to leave shortly after it began.
The convention’s legal fees stem from its nearly six-year effort to have a Cole County judge declare that five institutions acted illegally when they changed their articles of incorporation in 2000 and 2001 to allow for self-election of their respective trustees, removing that power from messengers to MBC annual meetings.
The five are The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, Word&Way, Windermere Baptist Conference Center and Missouri Baptist Foundation.
According to The Pathway’s story, MBC interim executive director David Tolliver “is being asked” to factor in a projected expense of $140,000 for litigation in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, through the remainder of 2008 and perhaps into 2009.
The convention has appealed the March 4 ruling of Cole County Judge Richard Callahan that Windermere acted legally in amending its articles to change the way its trustees are elected. Legal action against the other four institutions has been stayed — or delayed — until the convention’s Windermere appeal is resolved.
The Executive Board also approved a bridge loan from its own budget to pay what it currently owes in legal fees, although the story did not include a specific figure.
Tolliver told the Board he believes gifts from individuals and churches to the “Agency Restoration Fund” over the next 12 months will secure enough funding to pay back the loan, provided the fund continues to receive $17,000 to $18,000 per month, according to the story.
If that happens, the convention will not have to use Cooperative Program offerings to permanently pay for legal fees.
“Any monies taken out of reserves to pay for legal expenses will be returned to reserves promptly,” Tolliver said, according to the story. “Therefore, CP dollars are not being spent for the lawsuits.”
In other business, the Executive Board:
• Learned that $89,700 underspent from the previous year’s budget has been placed in a new building fund to help finance the construction of a headquarters building in California.
MBC leaders were to request that the California property’s donor, California contractor Kenny Vaughan, allow the convention three to five years to make the move. The downtown Jefferson City Baptist Building remains for sale.
• Heard a report from James Freeman, chair of the executive director search committee, that a candidate could be presented to the Executive Board as early as July but “don’t be surprised if it’s December,” according to the story.