Lawsuit amended, countersuit filed in Hayneville Plaza purchase

Published 10:50 am Thursday, August 13, 2015

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A lawsuit filed by the Lowndes County Commission in 2013 regarding the purchase of the Hayneville Plaza has taken on new life with a second amendment by the commission and now a countersuit by Karl Bell, his wife, Helenor, and Hayneville Plaza LLC.

The lawsuit filed in 2013 by the Lowndes County Commission against Karl Bell, Hayneville Plaza LLC and the South Central Alabama Broadband District (SCABC) was recently amended to include three additional defendants.

According to court documents e-filed by Arlene M. Richardson of Highland Home, the attorney currently representing the Lowndes County Commission, the lawsuit was amended on Aug. 5 to include Charlie King Jr., Helenor Bell and Robert Woods as defendants.

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On Aug. 11 attorney Michael G. Strickland, representing Karl Bell et al. filed a counterclaim against the Lowndes County Commission, including Robert Harris, Dickson Farrior, Brenson Crenshaw, Carnell McAlpine and Joseph Barganier.

Regarding the second amended complaint filed by the county commission, Richardson said, “The statue that we are suing under now — because we amended the complaint under a different statue that — allows you to not only sue the public officer who (allegedly) caused funds to be dispersed in the manner that they were here, but it also allows you to follow the money that was dispersed to get that money back.”

Richardson explained that the amended complaint arose from what was allegedly discovered through the discovery process including depositions of Karl Bell, Charlie King Jr., commissioners and the subpoena of bank records for the Hayneville Plaza.

Richardson explained facts alleged in the second amended complaint.

It is alleged that King (or someone on his behalf) sent a letter to U.S. Bank, the bank holding bond funds, causing the bond funds to be released “before any of the contracts were signed,” said Richardson.

It is alleged the bank wired the funds to Hayneville Plaza. “And that same day they went into the Hayneville Plaza Account, they left by means of withdrawals,” said Richardson.

It is alleged, according to Richardson, a check to Helenor Bell was discovered for more than $130,000. And it is alleged there was a more than $899,000 withdrawal to Helenor Bell.

It is also alleged that Woods was a paid consultant of the county commission who was supposed to negotiate the finance and purchase of the property, said Richardson, who was not known to be also working as a consultant of Karl Bell.

It is alleged that Woods was paid $52,000 when the bond closed by check from Hayneville Plaza to him.

“So, there is more work to be done as far as finding out everything that happened,” Richardson said, “But we have, we felt, enough evidence to amend the complaint and add those three people as additional defendants.”

When contracted by The Lowndes Signal, attorney Michael G. Strickland, who represents the Bells, said of second amended complaint, “Who knows the reason for the filing. It is not based in law.”

When asked what he believes the next step is to resolve the case, Strickland said, “The wrong people/corporations were sued.  Trillion and A2D should have been sued, but you have certain people on the commission who simply do not like the Bells and have let their own hatred and ignorance cloud their judgment.”

He said, “As a result of these peoples ignorance, they have probably let the Statute of Limitations expire against Trillion and A2D.  The claims filed by the commission against my clients, Hayneville Plaza, Karl Bell and Helenor Bell should be dismissed.”

Strickland said, “Helenor (Bell) has not even been served with the complaint.  But I will file a motion to dismiss the amended complaint when it is served.”

He said, “Based on the amended complaint, on behalf of Karl & Helenor Bell I will also file a suit against all of the county commissioners under the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act.  The Attorney for the county that filed the suit will probably be sued too.”

Strickland said it sounds as if the commission is claiming that there were things that should have been done before the county transferred the bond money to Hayneville Plaza and before they took possession of the Hayneville Plaza building.

He said, “That is why you have an attorney and that is why you pay an attorney.”

Alleged in the countersuit filed by Strickland, the commissioners “caused to be brought or allowed to be brought the complaint and amended complaint without substantial justification either factually or legally” as defined in the Code of Alabama.

It alleges the parties “knew or should have known that there is not a basis for bringing its claims” for Count One, Recovery of Public Monies, Count Two Specific Performance, Count Three, Promissory Estoppels, Count Four, Breach of Contract and County Five, Fraud.

Among other allegations in the counterclaim, the commissioners agreed to and allowed claims against Karl Bell, Helenor Bell and Hayneville Plaza LLC knowing they were not facts that justified, “and went so far as to illegally alter records and documents in a vain attempt to create a basis for lodging a claim.”

It is further alleged in the counterclaim that these defendants “have been substantially damaged” and forced to  “incur substantial cost” and the complaints by the commission are “intended solely for the purpose of embarrassment and to damage the good name, character and further libel and slander Karl Bell and Helenor Bell.”

Efforts to contact Means & Gillis Law LLC were unsuccessful.

County Attorney Hank Sanders and Selma attorney Christmas Green both withdrew from the case as attorneys for the county.