BREAKING NEWS: Court rules Mr. Gamble you have no client!Sandra Stokes Walden
Posted by: Sandra Walden
Date: Mar 07 2013 2:40 PM
Today I covered a hearing in the Federal Courthouse of Dothan. The hearing was held in the courtroom of the Honorable Keith Watkins.
This is a hearing where Mike Gamble, attorney, was trying to have some of the Cooperative District Board Members dismissed. Gamble felt that he was the attorney for the District and felt he knew what was best.
The U. S. Bank National Association was represented by Will Somerville, a Birmingham Attorney.
Mr. Gamble had filed a restraining order against the board members (who he stated were his clients) and that they be dismissed and he be reinstated at attorney for Cooperative District.
This hearing was to determine who represents the Improvement and Cooperative District of Houston County. Allen Clark is the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Improvement District, Dr. Bernard is vice-chairman. Cliff Mendheim is a new member of the Board. Rochester Johnson is chairman of the Cooperative District, Molly Dulac is the vice chairman and Clark, Bernard and Mendheim are also on the Cooperative District Board.
Judge Watkins had some questions about who represents the defendants and the plaintiff. Gamble filed an injunction against his own clients.
Judge Watkins asked Gamble if he spoke with Clark and Dulac before filing restraining order against them. He said no. Judge Watkins asked if he saw that as a problem and Gamble said yes sir.
Allen Clark was called to the stand as first witness. He was sworn in. Judge Watkins asked if he was chairman of the improvement board and he said yes sir. Clark, Bernard and Mendheim serve on the improvement board.
Clark was asked if he had the minutes of prior meetings. He said he had the minutes from the February 4, 2013 meeting. Judge Watkins asked Clark who was representing the Improvement District in this litigation? Clark responded, “No one”.
Clark stated that at the meeting on February 4, 2013 Mike Gamble was dismissed as the attorney of the Improvement Board. Clark did not contact Mike and tell him he was dismissed. He did send a email that included the copy of the February 4, 2013 Board meeting minutes. The minutes were of a joint meeting of the improvement and cooperative boards.
The Judge was given a copy of the meeting minutes as Mr. Clark had the original copy. Gamble said he had not seen the copy and he was given a copy. Gamble had no problem with the minutes being brought in for demonstration but he did object to them being admitted into evidence. The Judge admitted the minutes into evidence
Judge Watkins asked Clark if he was being sued as an individual in the matter? Clark said yes. Then Judge Watkins asked if he had a personal attorney and Clark said no.
Judge Watkins asked Gamble if he had any questions in the scope of what Judge Watkins had asked Mr. Clark. The Judge said he was not concerned about the merits of this case at all at this point.
Gamble asked Clark if exhibit 2 is a copy of the document that Clark emailed to him. Clark said yes. Mr. Gamble pointed out that the document says under the signature line that Mr. Clark is vice-chairman of the board. Clark said he had not had a attorney review the minutes, the mistake was made by his personal secretary and it was just a mistake.
Gamble states he was not provided with the document that has been admitted into evidence. Gamble arguing the document was not the same as the one provided him as his did not have signatures.
Judge Watkins said that what the question is before the court is who their lawyer is today.
Gamble said at one point I was the attorney for the board and the district.
Clark said that the Board never voted on Gamble being the attorney.
Gamble gives the court a document signed by Clark. The document is a engagement letter between Clark and Gamble.
Clark said it was an agreement that Gamble and Clark signed as to what Gamble would do for the board if hired. The agreement had to be voted on by the board to approve hiring. Clark said he did not have the power to hire Gamble on his own.
Mr. Gamble then presented Defendants Exhibit 3. This was a copy of a email and response between Gamble and Clark. Clark confirms the email
In the email Gamble says to Clark..opps wrong email. This email was in November.
Judge Watkins states that the point of today’s hearing is who is the lawyer today and apparently Mr. Gamble it is not you. Then Judge Watkins tell Gamble that what he is saying is not relevant as to who is the lawyer for the Improvement District. Judge Watkins asked Gamble if he had any questions for Mr. Clark as to who represents the Improvement District. Mr. Gamble stated that he is not really interested in representing the Improvement Board. Gamble was interested in representing the Cooperative District.
Gamble says the last email goes to the credibility of the witness. Gamble asks to go over the email with Clark. Judge Watkins states the he would allow a little lead way to credibility.
Gamble is questioning Clark if at the time of the email, Clark felt he could hire him. Clark said with the approval of the Improvement Board of Directors.
Judge Watkins states that we have gone enough down this road. This is a credibility issue, The board is a public board, has minutes of meetings and says you are not the attorney. Gamble asks to enter more evidence.
Judge Watkins states that the evidence is a December 7, 2012 email. The attachments have to do with Center Stage letter from Mr. Sherrer, former attorney.
Gamble says that litigation is filed in Houston County and is pending now. Mr. Sherrer filed the litigation. Mr. Gamble assumed that when Clark forwarded the email to him he considered Gamble as the attorney for the board.
Then Gamble wants to introduce evidence that the February 4, 2013 meeting was not advertised properly.
Judge Watkins states that he is not interested in whether or not a meeting was properly posted.
Gamble is contesting the firing by the Cooperative District.
Dr. Bernard was the next witness. He is vice-chairman of the Improvement District.
Judge Watkins asked him if he was involved in the February 4 meeting. He stated that he was not. Judge asked if he knew if Mendheim was there. Bernard said he read it in the paper.
The judge asked if as vice-chairman he had any idea as to who represents the district. Bernard said “Gamble”. The Judge then asked who he believed represented the district in the two prior meetings to February 4. Bernard said “Gamble”
Bernard stated that he read in the paper that Gamble was fired and that he was not notified of the meeting.
Mendheim took the stand next. Judge Watkins asked if he was a member of the board? Yes; Are you a attorney? Yes; Do you practice in Dothan? Yes.
Judge then asked if Mendheim was involved in the February 4 meeting, Mendheim replied yes. Are the meeting records accurate as to the meeting? Yes sir.
How were you notified of the meeting? Email. Was it a joint meeting? It was. Do you agree with minutes that Gamble was dismissed as attorney? Yes sir.
Do you have a personal attorney? Mendheim states that he is not a party to this action.
Gamble then asks Mendheim who appointed him to the board? Houston County Commission. Gamble asked if Mendheim was aware the notice for the meeting was posted in county buildings the same day as Mendheim was appointed? No sir, I am not aware of that.
Gamble then asked Mendheim if he was appointed to fire Mike Gamble? No Sir.
Mendheim went on to say that he was asked to serve on the board, he talked with several people to find out about what was going on with the board before he accepted the position. Gamble asked if he talked with him? Mendheim said no sir.
Judge Watkins asked Mendheim if it was his opinion that Gamble is no longer the attorney for the board? Yes sir.
Rochester Johnson was the next witness called. The questions and answers are as follows:
Are you chairman of the Cooperative District? Yes sir.
Did you participate at the February 4 meeting? No sir.
Were you notified of the meeting? Yes sir.
I could not be there at that time.
Do you have any reason in your position as chairman to dispute the minutes? I have no reason as I was not there. Johnson said it is his opinion that Gamble was and is the attorney today.
Did you receive any information about what meeting was about? No sir. Have you received any notice as to Gamble being fired? No sir.
Judge Watkins asked if Johnson had a personal attorney in this matter? He answered Gamble is his personal attorney.
Mr. Gamble then presented a document to Johnson and asked him to identify them. Johnson stated that they were the by-laws of the Cooperative District of Houston County. They were admitted into evidence.
Gamble stated that Bernard was not asked if he represented him as defendant in this case. Bernard stated that as far as he knows, Gamble represents him in this case. Judge then asked him if he wanted Gamble to represent him in this case as a defendant? Yes sir.
Molly Dulac was sworn in next. Judge Watkins asked if she was vice-chairman of the cooperative District Board? Yes sir. Were you present at the February 4 meeting? Yes sir. Did you Chair that meeting on behalf of the cooperative district? Yes sir. Judge then showed her the minutes of the February 4 meeting and she confirmed they were the minutes. How did you receive notice of the meeting? Email. With Clark, Mendheim and Dulac at the meeting did you have a quorum? Yes sir. At the meeting did you vote on removing Gamble? We did. Is he still attorney for the board? No sir. He is not your personal attorney? No sir.
Dulac then looked at Mike Gamble and said the following (not verbatium)…She said you got angry at the meeting and said you were no long attorney for the board. You quit.
Gamblel asked Dulac if the meeting of February 4 was not properly posted would it be binding? I don’t know.
Gamble said that Clark stated the purpose of the meeting is to discuss the status of the attorney. Gamble also said that Mendheim was asked to clarify that Gamble did not represent any actions taken by board… Should dismiss Gamble.
Ms. Dulac again looked at Gamble and said that what made this whole thing come to this is that Mike, you asked this board to sign an agreement stating that gambling was illegal. That is not our decision to make. It is the Supreme Court’s decision to make. You got angry and said you quit. I was quite surprised you were the attorney because we are on opposite sides. I don’t think we ever had a vote on this. You called us in for a meeting. Mr. Somerville asked me if we voted on Gamble, I said no.
You (Gamble) called us for a meeting, you wanted us to sign agreement against gambling. That is not what we are for, that is for higher authority
Judge Watkins then told Mr. Gamble that he was not interested in that, I am interested in who attorney is. Gamble asked the Judge another question and Judge Watkins said not relevant.
Judge Watkins said that he had heard form all board member of both boards. It Appears Mr. Gamble continues to represent Johnson and Bernard. It appears to me from the minutes of the board that Mr. Gamble does not represent the boards nor does he want to. Therefore the Cooperative and Improvement Districts are unrepresented.
Mr. Somerville moved to dismiss individual board members as defendants according to Rule 41-A Judge Watkins asked for the rule book
Mr. Gamble, on behalf of Bernard and Johnson do you have a problem with them being dismissed at this time. Gamble conferred with his clients.
Clark and Dulac do not object to being removed. Gamble states that his clients decline the offer to dismiss them from the suit.
Judge Watkins says that they can only be dismissed by court order. The counter claim that has been filed is only on behalf of the cooperative district.
Gamble filed a motion today for notice of receivership.
Somerville stated that it was his position the court still dismiss the individual defendants without prejudice. These defendants did not actually file counter claims.. The Judge asked Mendheim if he had any objections, Mendheim stated that he had not been sued. Dulac and Clark did not object.
Judge Watkins took the motion under advisement for dismal. He then took a 15 minute recess.
At 11:22 Judge Watkins returned. He said that these proceedings were to make a determination of who represents certain defendants in this case.
He asked the defendants if they had any other evidence..No… Mr. Gamble No.
Findings of Judge Watkins:
The court has vast discretion to manage documents. As of today Gamble does not represent either board of the district. I have had the board members on the stand and the majority say he does not . He does not represent Clark or Dulac nor should he having filled his restraining order.
Gamble was removed as counsel for the two districts, Clark and Dulac.
Rule 41-A addresses a motion filed to dismiss plaintiff claim against all defendants
Rule 41-A2 Allows court to dismiss. The court finds none have filed a counter claim. Plantiff US Bank National Association claims against the defendants are dismissed. Motion Granted.
Other business to be conducted by defendants who do not have representation is set for 60 days from now. This is to allow for the boards to get counsel so that this case can move forward.