Lawsuit filed in East Campus Neighborhood dispute
COLUMBIA - Some members of the East Campus Neighborhood Association filed a lawsuit against other association members, current and former, including city councilwoman Betsy Peters.
The lawsuit accuses association president Janet Hammen and Peters of acting outside their authority as association president and treasurer, respectively, in relation to a dispute regarding construction at a house owned by Beta Theta Pi.
According to the lawsuit, the fraternity wanted to reconstruct its property at 520 South College Avenue, commonly known as the Beta House. The reconstruction, however, would have put the building at a height greater than that allowed by the zoning code for that area.
The lawsuit says Hammen filed an objection to the plan on behalf of the ECNA without the authorization of the association and its members. Hammen then allegedly negotiated, along with Peters, a settlement with Beta Theta Pi in which the ECNA would not oppose the fraternity's request for a variance on Beta House in exchange for money. That money was to be used for land purchases, historic signs, park signs, and street lighting.
That negotiation, the lawsuit says, was outside Hammen's and Peters' authority as ECNA, as was Hammen's later actions in formally not opposing the Beta House variance.
According to the lawsuit, Hammen received the settlement money in the amount of $100,000 and deposited it into a bank account she owned. No taxes were paid on the settlement either, the lawsuit says, and the ECNA is not a tax-exempt organization. Further, the money was reportedly used on purchases not authorized by the assocation, like artwork, a donation to the city, and an attorney to help Hammen deal with a group of ECNA members wanting to split the association.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to require the defendants to give an accounting of how they used the settlement money, determine the purposes for which the money can be used, give association members tax information about the settlement and prevent ECNA officers from moving the money to a new organization.