Attorneys for Regions Bank are asking a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge to remove Tyra Lindsey, a 10th-grade Alabama student, as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against board members and trustees of the Mabel Amos Memorial Fund.
Marshall filed a motion to intervene in March in the complaint against the trust by Lindsey, a 10th-grade student at Hillcrest High School in Evergreen, and her mother, Denese Rankin. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Brooke Reid added Marshall as a plaintiff.
Attorneys for Regions Bank argued in a recent filing for Lindsey to be removed as a plaintiff in the case.
"Instead, under Alabama law, generally the Alabama Attorney General, is the real party in interest who has standing to enforce a charitable trust, particularly when there are no named beneficiaries," said Cynthia Lamar-Hart, an attorney with Maynard, Gale & Cooper representing Regions Bank in the lawsuit.
Regions Bank is the trustee of the Mabel Amos Memorial Fund. The fund's board members are John Bell, Rick Clifton and Alabama Ethics Commission executive director Tom Albritton.
The 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 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 last week 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, an attorney representing Lindsey, said in a filing responding to Regions last week the "Court would be benefited by hearing the voice of an actual member of the beneficiary class of the Trust, giving it an appreciation of the harm that has been done by the Trustee and Board members to young men and women of Alabama from low-income families who face financial barriers that prevent them from advancing their education."
"Petitioner's participation in this proceeding would also serve to allay any concerns that the AG's involvement in this matter is nothing more than a feud between Steve Marshall and Tom Albritton," Mathews said in the filing. "Multi-party participation in this proceeding would furthermore provide a measure of reassurance that all issues concerning the administration of the Trust have been addressed."
Marshall is also suing the Alabama Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion it issued in 2022 on the commission not being required or permitted to disclose exculpatory information or Brady material to respondents of complaints filed with the Ethics Commission.
Mathews stated, "[N]ow that the AG has filed a complaint in this proceeding, there is no question that this Court has jurisdiction over the Trust and the power to intervene in its administration. Petitioner therefore requests that, if the Court finds that the petitioner has no standing, she be allowed to continue participation in the proceeding as an amicus curiae."
Regions Financial and Maynard, Cooper & Gale are major political contributors to Marshall, Mathews said in his motion.
According to Mathews' filing, in the five years prior to oil being discovered on farmland owned by the Mabel Amos trust, "Regions charged the Trust a total of $30,009.00 in trust fees; and in the 5 years after the oil discovery, Regions' fees totaled $667,849.00, despite Regions spending the same amount of time working on Trust business before and after the oil discovery."
"Petitioner only seeks to protect the Trust by seeing that the excessive trustee fees, and the distributions to individuals and other entities who did not meet the conditions and criteria specified in the Trust, are clawed back into the Trust so that she and other students who qualify for a scholarship have a better chance of receiving one," Mathews outlined. "Petitioner also seeks to have the trustee and the Board members removed and replaced to ensure that similar breaches of fiduciary duty do not occur in the future."
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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