CAMDENTON — A Camden County judge has upheld dismissal of legal action against a former Missouri Baptist Convention entity but will allow a lawsuit to continue against a one-time MBC executive director.
In a ruling issued June 22, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Hayden allowed the MBC Executive Board to substitute an amended petition in its three-year-old Camden County case against Windermere Baptist Conference Center.
MBC attorneys have asked Judge Hayden to reconsider his latest ruling, and have filed a formal intent to appeal.
The convention filed legal action on Nov. 1, 2006, in an effort to stop all land transactions at Windermere pending the outcome of a case in Cole County Circuit Court involving five former convention agencies, including the center.
In April, Judge Hayden dismissed the case against Windermere, its attorneys, several financial institutions and Springfield developer William R. Jester.
At that time, the judge said the issues included mirror legal action the MBC took in Cole County against Windermere, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University, Word&Way and The Baptist Home in 2002.
The convention filed suit against the five in an effort to rescind changes in each entity’s articles of incorporation that allow each to elect its own trustees.
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan ruled March 4, 2008, that Windermere acted legally when it changed its articles of incorporation. A three-judge appellate panel upheld Callahan’s ruling Feb. 3.
The Missouri Supreme Court refused to consider the case, allowing Callahan’s decision to stand.
In his June 22 ruling, Judge Hayden again denied the MBC Executive Board’s attempt to rescind the deed and reclaim all land, including 943 acres Windermere transferred to National City Bank of Cincinnati as part of its debt restructuring plan.
The bank sold the property to Jester’s Windermere Development Co. Inc.
The ruling allows the convention to continue its case against former MBC executive director Jim Hill. The Executive Board has accused Hill of fraud, alleging the former director conspired with Windermere to give its trustees control of the center’s real estate. The amended lawsuit also accuses Hill of breach of fiduciary duties.
Hill has 30 days to respond to the charges.
Judge Hayden’s ruling stems from a June 9 hearing in which defense attorneys argued against being named in the third revised petition because the case against those entities had already been dismissed.
In a written statement, Windermere president and chief executive officer Dan Bench said he is pleased with the decision.
“Over the past 18 months, there have been four courts that have on six occasions ruled for Windermere or upheld a Windermere victory,” he added. “We urge the MBC to accept these judicial rulings and quit wasting missions money that could be used to help people in need.”
Jester spokesman Jerald Hill said development on former Windermere land will move forward. Work has already begun to increase electrical output in the area, and company representatives have been in touch with Camden County for zoning changes.
On July 16 last year, the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission indefinitely tabled a zoning change decision that would have enabled development of the acreage. Hill said the matter could come before the commission in July or August.
Vicki Brown is a correspondent for Word&Way.