THETA, TN – The Plaintiffs Fran Cole, et al vs. TWHBEA, Inc. late Tuesday released a Press Statement below with regard to the Complaint filed in United States District Court on Monday in Sacramento, California, and served today on TWHBEA’s registered agent for service of process, Kevin Kennedy, Esq. of Clarksville, Tennessee.
FRAN COLE – FORMER CALIFORNIA DIRECTOR
The four Plaintiffs are:
and other California individuals.
They are represented by the ELLIS LAW GROUP, LLP of Sacramento, California with Theresa LaVoie as lead counsel.
The lawsuit consists of 40 pages, 87 paragraphs in which multiples grounds are filed and relief requested.
A Jury trial is demanded
The anchor of the litigation is Plaintiffs claim that TWHBEA violated the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, ADA.
The disabled Plaintiffs ask for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction to enjoin TWHBEA from refusing to provide them with mail in written ballots, or in the alternative to stay the February 3, 2014 special meeting called for the sole purpose of voting on Christy Lantis removal until this Court has had the opportunity to resolve the issues presented in this case. Plaintiffs Tarnawski and Barton seek attorneys fees and costs incurred in this action under the ADA, and other damages and relief.
Central to the lawsuit is the HR 1518/S1406 Poll initiated by Pat Stout – TWHBEA VP to solicit the input of the TWHBEA membership in which 63% of them voted YES for passage of the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. 79% of the California members voted “YES”, and Greg Cook, CPA documenting the vote count is attached as an Exhibit.
And the actions of California Director Christy Lantis which followed and her opposition to the PAST Act.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 14, 2014
SACRAMENTO, CA –
Yesterday on January 13, 2014, a group of California members of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (“TWHBEA”) filed an action in United States District Court in Sacramento, California against TWHBEA, claiming violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, breach of governing documents and the Tennessee Corporations Code, breach of contract, violations of the California Business and Professions Code, and for declaratory relief and preliminary and permanent injunctions. The lawsuit is being handled by the Ellis Law Group, LLP in Sacramento, civil litigation attorneys who handle complex cases in both state and federal courts, and practice equine law.
The action results from TWHBEA’s decision to forcee the California members to travel over 4,000 miles round trip to Lewisburg, Tennessee to vote on the removal of the California Director Christy Lantis at a February 3, 2014 special meeting called for this purpose. This in person vote is being required by TWHBEA, rather than mail-in written ballots as provided under TWHBEA’s Bylaws. In the opinion of the California members who filed this lawsuit, TWHBEA’s refusal to allow its California members to vote by ballot is indefensible, violates Tennessee law and the Bylaws, and breaches the trust these members placed in TWHBEA when they paid their dues to secure voting rights.
California members offered to assist with the written ballots and pay all of the mailing costs so TWHBEA would not be burdened with any financial expense. In addition, a number of California members, including two of the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, cannot travel to Lewisburg, Tennessee due to recent injuries. Another plaintiff is a pediatrician and new mother of a baby daughter. She cannot travel due to family and professional commitments. There are undoubtedly many other California members who are equally unable to attend the February 3, 2014 meeting in person because of financial or work related commitments or because of medical reasons.
Christy Lantis presently serves on the breed association’s Executive Committee as VP ““ Fiscal Affairs. She was previously Chairman of the Performance Horse Committee where she championed the “Big Lick” show horse, which is subject to much controversy for being abused and exhibited in stacked pads and chains. Ms. Lantis also opposes the pending federal legislation, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. This Act would prohibit the stacked pads and chains, make horse soring a federal felony, and take further action to strengthen the Horse Protection Act. Europe bans the stacked pads and chains, and the United Stated Equestrian Federation also does not allow these devices.
The special meeting on Monday, February 3, 2014 to vote on the removal of Ms. Lantis was scheduled after over 25% of the California members petitioned TWHBEA for this recall vote. This was after the California TWHBEA members voted overwhelmingly (79%) in favor of the PAST Act. Throughout the United States and Europe, TWHBEA members voted a landside 63% YES for passage of the PAST Act. Many California members of TWHBEA do not believe that Ms. Lantis represents their position with respect to protecting the Tennessee Walking Horse from abuse and soring. This sentiment is further expressed by the members of all the flatshod Tennessee Walking Horse Clubs in California, including the National Plantation Walking Horse Association, the Northern California Walking Horse Association and the Plantation Walking Horse Association of California.
The California group’s spokesperson, Fran Cole, an attorney and former California TWHBEA director, stated that the California members had repeatedly requested written ballots to vote on Lantis’ removal, but TWHBEA had ignored or rejected these requests. She said that last week TWHBEA’s attorney sent a letter to us stating that “the organization is not authorizing voting at the meeting by written ballot.” Cole stated that while the California members had wished to avoid litigation, TWHBEA’s actions left them no choice but to file a claim to protect their right to vote.
Cole said “Directors’ elections are always handled by secret written ballots being mailed to the members, and the votes are always counted by a Certified Public Accountant.”
Cole said, “Director Lantis was elected by written ballot and should be removed by written ballot. That’s the only right way to do it. No TWHBEA election in history has ever required members to travel to Tennessee to vote. It’s an international organization, after all. The only possible reason for denying us ballots is to disenfranchise members solely to protect a Big Lick insider.”
Cole said the California members had first planned to charter a “Stop The Soring -Free The Horses” bus across the country, stating that “while the bus was a great idea for drawing publicity to our cause and involving others across the country, it wasn’t fair or in compliance with applicable law and TWHBEA’s governing documents to force this expensive option on us.”
She said that TWHBEA had not provided her with copy of the list of members entitled to vote at the meeting within the timeframe required by Tennessee law, and that this failure had made it impossible for the California petitioners to contact the other voting members sufficiently in advance of the meeting to enable them to organize the trip. She also noted that several of the plaintiffs are disabled and infirm and cannot physically travel by bus or plane to Tennessee to vote, leading to the decision to file this action.
Cole stated “the petitioners believe, as a matter of principle, that the actions TWHBEA has taken to disenfranchise all of the members of our state solely to protect an insider are indefensible, intolerable and must be remedied.”
It looks like “Internet Chat” Court with TWHBEA Chief Justice Walt Chism presiding is now concluded.
- January 19, 2014 DEAR TWHBEA LITIGATION COMMITTEE: C/O KING STEVE SMITH AND CHIEF JUSTICE WALT CHISM, MAY I PLEASE INTRODUCE YOU TO HONORABLE KIMBERLY MUELLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA (SACRAMENTO)
- January 14, 2014 I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANY MORE, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH CALIFORNIANS SUE TWHBEA IN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT IN SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA FOR VIOLATING AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT AND OTHER GROUNDS
- May 30, 2014 PAT STOUT’S ATTORNEY SERVES DISCOVERY REQUESTS INCLUDING PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS ON STEVE SMITH’S TWHBEA’S REGISTERED AGENT – STOUT’S ATTORNEY HENRY D. FINCHER, ESQ. HAS DEEP FAMILY TIE TO FOUNDATION OF TENNESSEE WALKING HORSE BREED
- January 28, 2014 LATEST NEWS – CALIFORNIA LAWSUIT AGAINST TWHBEA – MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER TO GO BACK BEFORE JUDGE – RULING EXPECTED THIS WEEK – SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER FINANCE CHAIR STEVE SMITH HPA VIOLATOR LADEN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ATTEMPTS TO BULLY FRAN COLE
- February 20, 2014 FRAN COLE THANKS SUPPORTERS OF THE CALIFORNIA TWHBEA MEMBERS AND EXPRESSES OPTIMISM FOR TENNESSEE WALKING HORSE FUTURE WITHOUT PADS AND CHAINS