The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has won a sweeping legal victory in its effort to recover the Missouri Baptist Foundation (MBF). In a 37-page judgment dated Dec. 31, 2010 and received by MBC attorneys on Jan. 3, 2011, the trial judge declared that MBF charter changes in 2001 were calculated to “cheat” the MBC out of its rights to control the Foundation, and that the amendments were legally “void.” The opinion indicated that MBC-elected trustees could be in control of the Foundation offices within 30 days, unless the court of appeals stays the effect of this judgment. The judge ordered MBF to pay MBC’s attorneys fees and legal costs, and said there would be further hearings on those few matters left unresolved by his judgment.
Cole County Circuit Court Judge Paul Wilson used strong language criticizing the breakaway board in his opinion. He said the breakaway board “knowingly and purposefully violated the provisions of its 1994 charter,” which was in effect prior to the void amendments in 2001. The opinion indicated that breakaway trustees who were elected without Convention approval may be replaced by MBC elected trustees, within 30 days, unless there is a stay order issued by another court. The Court warned the Foundation against making any payments to employees or former employees under any “Golden Parachute” financial agreements.
MBC Attorney Michael Whitehead notified MBC Executive Director David Tolliver of the legal victory around noon Monday. Tolliver immediately notified, via email, the MBC Executive Board and staff.
The MBC filed suit against the Foundation on Aug. 13, 2002, after Foundation trustees voted in 2001 to change their charter to make their board self-perpetuating without getting Convention approval, as required by the 1994 charter. The Foundation manages assets valued at more than $140 million.
The opinion did not resolve the separate cases against Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Homes, but the judge made several rulings on points of law which have been disputed by the other defendants. It is expected that Judge Wilson’s ruling will accelerate a decision in the other cases as well.
MBC leaders and legal counsel are still studying Judge Wilson’s legal opinion and The Pathway web site will have a more detailed story Tuesday. The next print edition of The Pathway (Jan. 11) will have extensive coverage.