MBC seeks injunction against Jester, others
CAMDENTON – The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) has asked a Camden County judge to enjoin all further development activities on land formerly owned by Windermere Baptist Conference Center, pending the outcome of a separate action in Cole County court against five breakaway MBC agencies, including Windermere.
The Camden County petition names as defendants all developers, lenders, bond sales agents, title insurance companies and lawyers who have been involved in land transactions affecting Windermere real estate. Some defendants are located in California, Georgia or Nevada.
Filed on Nov. 1, 2006, the new petition also asked that a “temporary restraining order” be granted, before an evidentiary hearing was held. After an informal conference with some of the attorneys, Associate Circuit Judge Bruce Colyer declined to issue the temporary restraining order (TRO) on Nov 27. The matter will now proceed to hearings on the preliminary injunction request and other procedural defenses raised by defendants.
Michael Whitehead, MBC lead attorney, said the TRO ruling did not surprise the MBC legal team.
“It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and Judge Colyer was asked to digest about four years of litigation in five minutes. We expected that a full hearing will be required to bring the Camden County court up to date.”
Attorneys for defendants argued that the Camden County case was essentially the same case that was already before the Cole County court, and should be dismissed for being duplicative.
“It is not duplicative,” Whitehead argued, “because 941 acres of Windermere land is now titled in the name of Bill Jester’s companies. Bill Jester and his companies are not parties to the Cole County case, and any case involving title to that 941 acres must be brought in the county where the land is, Camden County.
“In Cole County, the defendants are the five agencies and the issue is the unauthorized charter changes. In Camden County, the defendants are persons and firms with claims to the 941 acres, over whom the Cole County court lacks jurisdiction.”
Before the breakaway, Windermere was comprised of more than 1,300 acres of shoreline property in the Lake of the Ozarks, outside Camdenton. In November 2005, the breakaway board conveyed 941 acres to National City Bank (NCB), in a “deed in lieu of foreclosure.” In February 2006, NCB conveyed the 941 acres to Bill Jester’s newly formed company, Windermere Development Company, LLC. Jester and his associate, Jerald Hill, have formed several other companies, including The Villas at Windermere, LLC; The Estates at Windermere, LLC, and The Lodges at Windermere, LLC. Bill Jester and Jerry Hill have also been associated in Windermere business with Jerry’s brother, Jim Hill, former MBC executive director.
When Jester purchased the land, he mortgaged it for about $6 million to Consolidated Mortgage, Inc., in Las Vegas, Nev., and to National City Bank.
Whitehead said that some parties have not yet filed answers in the Camden County case, and that will be necessary before hearings can be held on the preliminary injunction request. A circuit court judge may be asked to hear further proceedings in the case, rather than the associate circuit judge. Defendants are expected to ask that the case be transferred to Cole County, perhaps to newly elected circuit judge Jon Beetem, who won a Nov. 7 ballot contest against Judge Thomas Brown, III.
Among the individual defendants named in Camden County are William Jester, Jerald Hill, Jim Hill, and attorneys Jim Shoemake and Eric Walter. The attorneys are alleged to have filed a fraudulent document with the Camden County recorder’s office in 2004, asserting that the Cole County case had been finally dismissed, when in fact it was on appeal. Jim Hill is alleged to have committed constructive fraud and breach of fiduciary duty to the MBC and to Windermere, as a result of his involvement in breakaway transactions.