Directors of the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce are considering liquidating a Chamber asset, Harmony, the town monument, to pay for legal fees and costs incurred to defend the Chamber board. Directors say the lawsuits are baseless and grudge-motivated. In August, monument creator David Roy filed a lawsuit claiming unpaid fees. He subsequently refiled a nearly identical suit last month.
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, Chamber Director Peter Buhl, with support from six of the seven board members, described how the board is considering paying its legal costs. “This morning, we, as a group, decided to look into dismantling the Harmony monument and auctioning off individual pieces. This could help pay for the constant legal fees and court costs associated with it [the lawsuit] due to this new filing against the Chamber by David Roy, and his ‘shadow’ lawyer, Ken Carlson. The Chamber is discussing the steps we need to take to do so.”
Should the board take this course, money raised through auction of monument pieces would only be used to defend the Chamber in the suit, clarified Director Mimi Lamp.
“I think it is very important to reiterate that we are having to consider dismantling and auctioning the monument due to the cost of the attorney for the Chamber, not for the individuals,” Lamp noted.
Chamber President Chris Titus concurred. “The lawyer fees it [the auction] would be used for would only be for the chamber’s costs. I have and will continue to pay my own lawyer expenses.” Lamp commented about the need to raise defense funds, “All are in agreement that we need to raise money [to defend the Chamber] and it [the monument] is the only thing that the Chamber has [owns] of monetary value. The bus has very little value.”
Roy has also sued directors as individuals, since the Chamber directors’ insurance for the board lapsed under Carlson’s presidency.
Buhl added, “If an auction were to be held, it is my opinion that it would be an ethical, considerate and proper use of some of the funds to be used for some form of restitution to all who donated to the monument fund. This restitution could be in the form of a new monument to replace Harmony or some other form that would honor the donations given in the past and give the town something to again be proud of.”
Directors, both as a board and individuals, have already incurred filing and legal fees for the first lawsuit Roy filed in August 2012. Roy dismissed that suit on Jan. 23, the same day he filed a second, almost identical, lawsuit against the board and the same named directors. The claims in Roy’s second suit remain similar to those in the first. The only major difference is which Superior Court judge will hear it.
If the second lawsuit proceeds, as directors anticipate it will, they would again be forced to pay filing and legal fees. They believe these fees will continue to mount as long as Roy continues to pursue what Chamber directors say is a frivolous and maliciously motivated lawsuit — frivolous because the claims cannot be factually substantiated, and malicious because of a grudge attorney and former Chamber President Ken Carlson holds against the Chamber. In 2010, he was ousted as president and Chamber member by a previous board of directors.
Roy is suing for $1,500 for work he performed in applying a sealant to his carving prior to its July 2012 dedication. There was no signed contract between Roy and the Chamber. Roy also alleges the Chamber embezzled funds from the Chamber monument maintenance account although Chamber check records, dating from the time Carlson was Chamber president, account for all money dispersed from that account. Roy has filed the lawsuit as if representing himself without attorney. Carlson is acting as Roy’s behind-the-scene legal advisor, as court records from the first suit document.
Directors said Roy’s lawsuit is baseless and Chamber records, which Roy and Carlson were invited to inspect, would confirm all monument funds were properly disbursed and accounted for. Carlson and Roy declined the invitation to inspect Chamber records.
Directors maintain that Roy was never “hired” to apply a coating of sealant to the monument prior to its July 2012 dedication and there was no contract or agreement for him to do so. Even so, President Chris Titus said both Roy and Carlson were invited to discuss with the board how best to resolve Roy’s claim for $1,500 for work performed. Carlson and Roy declined to meet with the board.
In 2007, the Chamber commissioned the carving by Roy, paid him an agreed fee to complete it, and is the legal owner of Harmony.