By Vicki Brown
Word&Way Associate Editor
Camdenton — Windermere Baptist Conference Center may continue to operate under the terms of a debt reduction agreement that transferred 941 acres of Windermere's 1,300 acres to National City Bank of Cincinnati, Ohio, in late 2005.
As part of the restructuring plan to cover the conference center's Wilderness Creek expansion, Windermere Development Company Inc. of Springfield, owned by William R. Jester, purchased the 941 acres from the bank. Jester plans to develop the property.
On Nov. 27, 26th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Bruce E. Colyer denied a Missouri Baptist Convention request for a temporary restraining order against Windermere to prohibit center administrators and trustees from selling timber, beginning or continuing construction projects, constructing streets or doing utility work.
The temporary restraining order also sought to stop the center or others from bringing foreclosure proceedings or placing any lien on the property or to buy or sell mortgage bonds.
Judge Colyer heard arguments in the case in Camdenton on Nov. 22. In his ruling, the judge noted that plaintiffs had "failed to show immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damages" that would result if the TRO was denied.
The MBC Executive Board; former MBC president Robert Curtis, pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church; and convention-elected Windermere trustees filed legal action against the conference center, several financial institutions and individuals on Nov. 1 in the 26th Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Camden County where Windermere is located.
The new petition is in addition to a lawsuit the convention filed against Windermere, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Word&Way, which seeks to force the five entities to rescind charter changes that allow the five to elect their own trustees. Filed on Aug. 13, 2002, in Cole County Circuit Court, that legal action is still pending.
The newest lawsuit seeks to stop all land transactions at Windermere while the Cole County action is still pending.
Convention-elected trustees listed as plaintiffs are Larry Atkins of Laquey, pastor of First Baptist Church, Buckhorn; Don Buford of New Florence, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Big Spring; James How of Washington; Don Laramore of Caledonia; James Robinson of Branson; and Charles Schrum of Lebanon. Windermere does not recognize them as trustees.
In addition to Windermere, the legal action includes Jester, as an individual, and six of his companies — Windermere Development Co., Jester Capital Management, The Estates at Windermere, The Lodges at Windermere, The Villas at Windermere and Resource Development Inc. — as defendants.
Jerald "Jerry" Hill is listed as a defendant in his capacity as the agent for Resource Development Inc. and as an individual.
The law firm that represents Windermere in the Cole County case — Guilfoil, Petzall & Shoemake — and two of its attorneys — Jim Shoemake and Eric Walter — are also listed as defendants.
Former MBC executive director James L. Hill as an individual and his company, RDI, are defendants, as well.
The lawsuit includes a count of fraud against Windermere, Jim and Jerald Hill, Jester, Shoemake and Walter and seeks damages from each.
Several financial firms are listed, including California Plan of Church Finance of Fresno, Calif.; Reliance Trust Co. of Atlanta, Ga.; San Joaquin Bank of Bakersfield, Calif.; First Centennial Bank of Brea, Calif.; National City Bank; Consolidated Mortgage Inc. of Henderson, Nev.; and First American Title Missouri Agency of Fenton.