A defense attorney for Alabama Ethics Commission director Tom Albritton has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against him and other board members of the Mabel Amos Memorial Fund.
Tyra Lindsey, a 10th-grade student at Hillcrest High School in Evergreen, and her mother, Denese Rankin, filed the complaint against the board in February, alleging the board members favored family members when dolling out scholarship funds.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall intervened in the case in March. Regions Bank is the trustee of the Mabel Amos Memorial Fund. The fund's board members are John Bell, Rick Clifton and Albritton.
"Mr. Albritton and Mr. Clifton serve as board members on the Trust, and the Attorney General now wrongly alleges that Defendants engaged in acts of self-dealing by allowing family members to apply for scholarship funds from the Trust," R. Asbhy Pate, an attorney for Albritton and Clifton, said in a motion to dismiss on Thursday. "But the Attorney General has already asserted identical allegations in a previously-filed lawsuit. Indeed, the same allegations are currently being litigated by the Attorney General in a motion still pending in a previous case, Megan Carmack v. Regions Financial Corporation, filed in Montgomery County in July of 2022. Alabama's abatement statute expressly prohibits this scattershot approach."
Leigh Gulley Manning and Megan Carmack, relatives of Amos, filed a separate lawsuit last year. Marshall has also intervened in that lawsuit.
"Plaintiffs have ignored basic procedural requirements at every step of this litigation. Among them, they lack standing, have failed to properly serve Defendants' Albritton and Clifton with appropriate pleadings under the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, and have attempted to maintain two identical actions arising out of the same alleged wrongful conduct," Pate wrote in the filing. "This is vexatious and improper. Defendants respectfully request that the Court preserve judicial resources and dismiss this case in its entirety now."
The stated purpose of the fund is "to fund or to provide scholarships for deserving young men and women of this State [Alabama]…to assist them in attending any educational institution."
Amos' will defined "deserving" as being based on the character, intelligence, scholastic record, and financial need of the student.
Amos was Secretary of State of Alabama from 1967 to 1975. She died in 1999.
Marshall said in a filing recently that Regions and the board members "engaged in acts of self-dealing, or breached their fiduciary and other duties to the trust by failing to prevent or prohibit self-dealing, or by permitting and acquiescing in self-dealing, and engaging in other acts and omissions in violation of statutory and common law duties owed to the Trust."
"The Trustee and the Board, jointly and severally, impermissibly awarded scholarships or grants to Albritton's children and paid or caused to be paid scholarships or grant money from the Mabel Amos Fund totaling $135,000 for his children to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin," Marshall said in the filing.
According to Mobile-based Lagniappe, Albritton has "previously denied engaging in self-dealing, claiming he had abstained from voting for his kids' scholarships, and they were awarded based on merit."
Byron Mathews Jr., an attorney for Lindsey, requested in a motion responding to the motion to dismiss on Friday "that the Court assume jurisdiction over the Mabel Amos Trust and all of its Trustees (which include Board members, Tom Albritton and Rick Clifton) and commence an inquiry into the credible allegations that the Trustees breached the terms of the Trust and violated their fiduciary obligations to the intended beneficiaries of the Trust - young men and women of Alabama who have financial hardship and need assistance to further their education."
A hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 26.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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