Members of a group on one side of a dispute over who controls a 40-year-old Havre charity now have a legal dispute of their own.
Roberta Beute, former chair of a group saying it is the legal board of the Community Give-A-Way House Inc. nonprofit corporation, filed a lawsuit in Hill County Justice Court in October against Sheila Forshee, treasurer of that board, after the board removed Beute from office.
Beute and Forshee represented themselves in the lawsuit.
Beute and Forshee are defendants in another lawsuit filed by a group saying it is the legal board of the nonprofit corporation. That suit is pending in state District Court in Havre. Judge Dan Boucher has ordered the groups to meet for a settlement conference to try to resolve the issue before continuing with court hearings and a trial.
In the recent Justice Court suit, Judge Audrey Barger ruled that her court has no jurisdiction over the matter, as it asks for determining ownership of real and personal property. She transferred the case to District Court. Barger said the court also lacks jurisdiction because District Court has not ruled as to which board controls the charity and owns the property, she wrote.
Barger notes that Beute filed the lawsuit against Forshee rather than against the board of directors.
In the suit, Beute asked the court to award her $5,341.83 for expenses she incurred while acting as chair of that board.
Forshee then filed a counterclaim asking the court to rule against Beute and to require Beute to return keys to the charity's van, a checkbook and bank statements.
In her complaint, Beute includes a page-long list of expenses including postage, advertising costs, office supplies, fees to the Secretary of State and the federal Internal Revenue Service which oversees federal nonprofit status, and $3,400 paid to Robert Kampfer, the attorney representing Forshee's board in the District Court lawsuit.
The lawsuit documents also includes a letter from the board to Beute in which the other members of the board say they held an emergency meeting on Sept. 5, to which Beute was invited but did not attend. At that meeting, the board members removed her from office, the letter says. The letter asks Beute to return all Giveaway House property to Sheila Forshee.
In her reply and counterclaim, Forshee argues that Beute paid for expenses without approval of the board, adding that actions and payments made without board approval are considered by the board to be donations to the charity.
Forshee's response adds that the charity has since January "struggled with an identity fraud group who is trying to claim the corporation," including its taking control of the charity's bank account.
Attorney Tyler Gernant, who is representing the rival board, has said that account is being held pending resolution of the District Court case.
Forshee's response also says other reasons Beute was voted off the board was due to her beginning to call officers and directors names and "cussing at them" in July and August, and claiming they were believing lies and saying they were on drugs and that she believed a methamphetamine lab had been set up in the basement of the North Havre property where the charity operates.