After months of controversy, Alabama Farm Credit (AFC) is hitting back against former borrower Dustin Kittle for his statements about the lender accusing it of corruption and extortion.
On Thursday, the Cullman-based rural lender filed a complaint in federal court against Kittle, seeking an injunction to stop his "unilateral attempt to schedule a stockholders meeting in violation of AFC's bylaws."
In September, Kittle began posting documents, photos, texts and phone recordings to social media to support his claims that AFC violated federal lending laws.
Kittle alleged AFC undervalued several of his properties in Tennessee to force him to include his mother's farm in Geraldine as additional collateral. When he tried to address the issue, Kittle said he was threatened with foreclosure on his properties despite never missing a payment. Kittle has also raised concerns about how AFC handles poultry loans and has spoken with many current and former borrowers who have experienced similar issues.
This led Kittle to call for a borrower and stockholder meeting on December 29 to address these issues and attempt to vote out current AFC leadership and board members.
In its complaint, AFC again denied any wrongdoing and claimed Kittle violated its bylaws by attempting to hold a shareholder meeting without currently being a shareholder.
"AFC has bylaws just like any established financial institution with internal controls and Mr. Kittle cannot unilaterally make up his own rules," said AFC president and CEO Mel Koller.
"Our borrowers are at the heart of what we do," he continued. "We will not sit by and allow these unfounded tactics to undermine our organization or our support of our borrowers' businesses," Koller added. "No prudent business can be run by an outsider using Facebook "likes" and "dislikes." That is not how responsible businesses are run."
The filing also accuses Kittle of defamation for spreading "false information to AFC's current, former, and prospective borrowers, regulators, and the larger agricultural community in an attempt to harm the association."
Koller said Kittle's planned meeting would be unofficial and near "no official consequence to the organization."
Kittle issued a response on Facebook to AFC taking action against him.
"It's beside the point the Stockholders' Meeting was properly called. These people are fighting against me right now to keep the Borrowers from having a voice in their own Association," he said. "That's not right, and it shouldn't have had to be the Stockholders calling the meeting in the first place to address the violations of federal law."
"They have filed a 31-page Federal Complaint against me without refuting a single word of what I have said on this," he added.
On top of canceling the meeting and removing his posts, AFC is seeking $75,000 compensation plus punitive damages from Kittle for his "intentionally malicious behavior."
A copy of the AFC complaint filed against Kittle can be found below:
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