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Calvert Historical Foundation fires attorney in Mariam Oscar estate lawsuit

Calvert Historical Foundation fires attorney in Mariam Oscar estate lawsuit

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Three years into a lawsuit involving former Robertson County District Attorney John Paschall and a deceased Calvert woman's estate, the plaintiffs' attorney, who has been working pro-bono, was terminated by the nonprofit organization he represented.

A few weeks before voting to cut ties with the lawyer, Ty Clevenger, in early June, members of the Calvert Historical Foundation had voted in favor of removing Richard Johnson as president based on his lack of communication regarding the charity's involvement in the Mariam Oscar estate case.

The estate case has been ongoing since June 2011, when Clevenger first filed a suit against Paschall on behalf of Oscar's distant relative based on claims Paschall had misappropriated funds as executor of Oscar's estate.

Two years later, the petition was amended to name the Calvert Historical Foundation as the plaintiff. The foundation had standing given that they were a nonprofit Calvert organization, which is where Oscar wanted her remaining assets donated after her death, according to Oscar's trust agreement.

In January, $86,000, what Paschall says remains of Oscar's estate, was submitted to the county registry and set aside until a receiver is named to distribute the money.

At this point, it's unclear what will happen with the money or the lawsuit, which was still in discovery stages when Clevenger was terminated.

On Monday, Paschall's attorney, Rusty Russ, filed motions requesting the case be dismissed, a ruling District Judge H.D. Black will make at a later date.

Russ said he filed the motions after a former foundation member, who left the organization before the Oscar litigation began, brought him minutes from the nonprofit organization's last meeting, at which a vote was taken to terminate Clevenger.

Calvert Historical Foundation President Jennifer Caudle, who said she joined the foundation in September 2013, insisted she and other members were unaware that the foundation was named as a plaintiff until the spring.

At the next member meeting in May, Johnson was terminated as president based on an "overwhelmingly majority vote," according to a letter from Caudle to Clevenger.

Johnson was voted out of his position for several reasons, "including but not restricted to a lack of full disclosure to membership of his activities on behalf of" the foundation, the letter states.

According to minutes from foundation meetings, of the 21 current members, 17 joined after the June 2013 meeting when a unanimous vote was taken in favor of joining Clevenger in the Oscar lawsuit.

Based on minutes from the June 2013 meeting, when Johnson brought up a discussion with Clevenger about the foundation becoming involved in the Oscar lawsuit, "members aggressively embraced and endorsed the concept."

The minutes state Johnson told members "Ty Clevenger would represent the foundation pro-bono" prior to a vote being taken.

Caudle, who wasn't at the June 2013 meeting, confirmed she's seen the minutes, but said the word "plaintiff" was never used by Johnson in explaining the organization's involvement.

Several of the members said the removal of Clevenger wasn't about dismissing claims against Paschall, but about getting the foundation out of a lawsuit in which it appeared to be suing people for a deceased person's money.

"The bottom line is we did not understand what was going on," Caudle said.

Clevenger said he was strongly skeptical Caudle didn't know that the foundation was listed as the plaintiff since he attended a meeting in February and discussed the case with members in attendance, including Caudle.

Johnson said he didn't believe Caudle couldn't know, either.

In a letter Clevenger sent to Black on Tuesday, he recommended a receiver be appointed who could hire a new plaintiff attorney to proceed with charges, or appoint a special prosecutor to the case.

Additionally, Clevenger recommended the judge order Paschall to turn over financial records as he's repeatedly been ordered to, and hire an auditor to review all the documents that have been submitted by Paschall.

In addition to the civil suit, a complaint filed by Clevenger with the State Bar of Texas will be brought before an evidentiary panel to determine if Paschall is guilty of professional misconduct.

The Oscar estate case also has spurred a criminal investigation by the attorney general's office, which has yet to be completed or brought before a grand jury.

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