TRO against Windermere extended - Word&Way

TRO against Windermere extended

By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor

Jefferson City — A temporary restraining order against Windermere Baptist Conference Center has been extended yet again.

At a May 9 hearing, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown extended the order to June 1 and scheduled a hearing at 9 a.m. on that date to hear arguments for a permanent injunction against the center.

Missouri Baptist Convention attorneys requested the extension again in another effort to take the deposition of William R. Jester, owner of Resource Development Inc. in Springfield.

At a Dec. 19 hearing, Judge Brown granted an MBC request for a temporary restraining order to prohibit Windermere's trustees and corporate officers from selling or encumbering the center's real estate until the court determines who controls the center and its assets.

Because of time needed to take depositions and collect information, convention attorneys requested, and the judge granted, hearing delays on Feb. 15, Feb. 28 and April 10.

Center administrators had transferred title to 941 acres in a special warranty deed in November as part of a debt-restructuring plan with National City Bank of Cincinnati to reduce the center's debt from $21 million to $14 million.

Windermere Development Company Inc., started and owned by Jester, purchased the acreage from the bank on Feb. 24.

Acknowledging that the sale took place before the temporary restraining order had been issued, MBC attorney Michael Whitehead asked for a permanent injunction to stop Windermere from "cooperating" with Jester's company in developing the purchased property.

Whitehead accused Jester and corporate representative Gerald "Jerry" Hill of setting up shell companies in which to shift records and avoid turning over documents convention lawyers want to review.

Craig Johnson, who appeared at the hearing on behalf of Jester attorney Virginia Fry, said Fry offered to produce any records the convention does not already have. But Whitehead responded that MBC attorneys want records for the "Jester family" of companies. Judge Brown granted the request.

Plaintiffs want Jester deposition

Whitehead also requested, and Judge Brown granted, a motion to compel Jester to give a deposition in the case. Jester has not appeared on any dates set for deposition.

According to Johnson, Jester suffers from an undisclosed medical condition that prohibits him from appearing. Johnson would not release details of the problem in open court, but gave the judge a letter from Jester's doctor.

Judge Brown suggested Whitehead give notice for deposition again. If Jester fails to appear, MBC attorneys could file a motion for contempt against the businessman, Judge Brown said.

The May 9 Windermere hearing was part of a hearing on the MBC's broader legal action against the center, Word&Way, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University and the Missouri Baptist Foundation. (05-18-06)