Attorneys spar as QNA rebuts lawsuit

By Carolyn Roy – bio|email|Twitter

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – The attorney hired to represent the Queensborough Neighborhood Association in a lawsuit filed against them says the suit is frivolous and expressed confidence Thursday that it will be thrown out when it comes before a judge next week.

"I guarantee you that when this matter is brought to court, it will be dismissed," English said at a news conference at the QNA offices. "It's an attention-getter by Mr. Settle and his client, and it's done to intimidate the board of the Queensborough Neighborhood Association, and they will not be intimidated."

Attorney John Settle showed up at that news conference, prompting a several testy exchanges. Settle first took a seat in the back of the room, but soon moved up to the table where English and founding QNA member Willie Bradford were seated. That prompted English to ask Settle to move, "I mean, this is our press conference." "If I can't attend here," Settle responded,"you're gonna have to call the police."  Settle eventually returned to a seat at the back of the room, but continued to ask questions, which English refused to answer.  One of those questions was whether the board treasurer, Lloyd Davis, has been in a nursing home for the past two years.   "You're a professional, I'm a professional," English replied.  "You should respect what we're doing."  "I'm asking a question that will come out in court that is a fair question," Settle responded, to which English answered, "Nobody showed up at your office when you called the media down, to interfere with your comments."

The board's vice chairman Sam Jenkins confirmed last week that Davis has been hospitalized in recent weeks, but it's unclear for how long.  The board agreed in a meeting on Monday to remove Davis from the QNA accounts.  When asked whether that was because of the illness or because of his alleged acceptance of a personal loan by Lola May using QNA funds, Jenkins would only say, "both." As of Thursday night, board attorney Danny Malone says Davis is still a board member.

Settle filed the suit Wednesday on behalf of Queensborough resident Bobbie Bowers, who is also a former QNA employee.  It names four members of the QNA board itself, along with the interim Executive Director Lavern Carley, appointed on Monday to replace Lola May.  May resigned last week as part of a plea deal on a misdemeanor charge related to the use of QNA funds to cover a hot check for contractor Santana Brown.

The suit alleges that board Chairman Johnny May, Vice Chairman Sam Jenkins, Jr, Secretary Hazel Dudley and Treasurer Lloyd Davis are not properly elected, and therefore unable to perform their duties.  At the center of the suit, the claim that the board never held their annual meeting to elect new members as required by the organization's bylaws. It also claims that some of the members have served more than their two consecutive three-year terms as allowed in the bylaws.  English refuted that, but admitted that the board did not hold the annual meeting originally scheduled for March of this year, "because of the events that happened with Ms. May."  English went on to say that the bylaws give the board the flexibility to do so, and decided that "it was appropriate that they remain in place that no election is held, because they didn't feel it was appropriate that a new board should be able to come in and have to deal with these issues."

English was unable to say whether the annual meeting has been scheduled.  Still, he says, "There is no basis in truth in this document, both legally and factually. The Queensborough Neighborhood Association has conducted itself within the guidelines of it's bylaws and the law."

Citing reports that the QNA refused to cooperate with Caddo Sheriff's Office investigation of alleged wrongdoing by May, the petition filed in Caddo District Court says Bowers "has no reason to believe that the directors, officers and/or Carley will properly perform the respective functions of their offices."  English took exception to that, and took aim at the media for reporting it.  "That's not true. It's not true.  Any information that the law enforcement requested from the neighborhood association, they contacted the attorney (Danny Malone). He gave them everything that they asked for."

That's not what Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator had to say when he announced May's plea deal. "One of our problems was we had a lack of cooperation there," Prator recalled. "We had a problem with anybody with the QNA that would come forward and be a complainant." Prator also said that requests for records were met with resistance, forcing them to subpoena those records and delaying the investigation.

English also defended the board's decision to keep May on after the September raid on the QNA offices.  "Ms. May had not been charged with a crime," and could not remove her without evidence or a charge. "The board found out that Ms. May had been charged with a crime two days before she plead." May resigned on Monday, May 3 and the board formally accepted her resignation the following Monday.

Former board member and co-founder Willie Bradford expressed concerns about being able to carry on the work of the neighborhood non-profit under a restraining order signed by a judge Wednesday. "It's going to be the residents that suffer. If those services have to be ceased any length of time, residents who are on the verge of being first-time home buyers would not be able to get their certificate."

English, who says he was only retained on Wednesday night, was not aware of the order signed by Caddo District Judge Ramon Lafitte Wednesday afternoon.  "I don't know whether or not the court has issued a TRO (temporary restraining order) in this case, but it would be devastating if that happened." At the back of the room, Settle's reaction caught Bradford's attention.  "You think it's funny, John?" Bradford asked Settle.  "I said it doesn't," Settle responded.  "It doesn't! You need to read the restraining order."

Settle says he asked for the injunction on behalf of his client so that the board would not be able to hire friends or fire any employees for cooperating with the investigation.  The temporary restraining order prevents the board from making any changes to the operation, ordering an audit, signing any checks and hiring or firing anyone.  But as Settle points out, it also specifically prohibits the termination of any QNA services, programs, seminars or services, along with the initiation of new ones.  English says the board will comply with the order, which will remain in place at least until the first court hearing, set for June 1 in Caddo District Court. 

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