CAMDENTON, Mo. -— Windermere Baptist Conference Center staffers might be able to concentrate more on preparations for the summer season and less on lawsuits following a court ruling March 21.
Camden County Circuit Court Judge Ralph H. Jaynes has dismissed legal action against the center and several financial institutions the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board filed in Camden County on Nov. 1, 2006.
The MBC has sought the return of approximately 1,300 acres at the Lake of the Ozarks, which includes 943 acres Windermere transferred to National City Bank of the Midwest in late 2005 as part of a debt-restructuring plan. The bank sold the property to Windermere Development Co. Inc., owned by the late William R. Jester of Springfield.
From the Camden County case’s beginning, Windermere attorneys have argued that it mirrored legal action the MBC took in Cole County against Windermere, the Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University, The Baptist Home and Word&Way in 2002.
The convention filed the Cole County case against the five in an effort to rescind changes in each entity’s governing documents that allow each to elect its own trustees. In 2008, then-Cole County Judge Richard Callahan ruled Windermere had acted legally -— a ruling the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, upheld in 2009.
Windermere lawyers argued that both the Cole County and Camden County cases stemmed from the same actions and transactions between the center and the MBC and that the parties involved, the subject matter and the evidence needed to support the claims were the same in both cases. Missouri law bars repeated litigation on the same claims.
In the Camden County lawsuit, the MBC acknowledged the Cole County ruling but claimed it still had a right to the land, charging that Windermere and former MBC Executive Director Jim Hill had acquired the title through fraud.
The center had been governed under the direction of an MBC committee until Jan. 1, 2001, when Windermere became an agency. In 2000, Hill, the Executive Board and messengers to the annual meeting approved articles of incorporation for the center and the property was deeded to Windermere.
In its Camden County lawsuit, the convention claimed Hill and Windermere trustees defrauded the MBC because the articles of incorporation did not include a provision that the MBC had to approve any changes in Windermere’s governing documents. Consequently, the deed should be rescinded and the property returned to the convention.
Windermere attorneys noted that because the process was approved at several levels -— including by messenger vote — the MBC had to have been aware the provision had not been included.
In addition to Windermere, Judge Jaynes dismissed the case against Reliance Trust Co., National City Bank of the Midwest, Consolidated Mortgage Inc. and First American Title Missouri Agency Inc. The judge ruled for Hill on Feb. 1.
Reached by email, MBC attorney Michael Whitehead said convention leaders would consider options, including an appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, in Springfield, once Judge Jaynes issues his formal written opinion on the case.
The Cole County litigation continues against the Foundation, The Home and MBU. The MBC voluntarily released Word&Way from the legal action in April 2010.