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Giveaway House to reopen amid controversy

Havre Daily News/Lindsay Brown

A sign in the Giveaway House window Tuesday morning reads, "Re Opening April 20th 10 a.m. - 5 p.m."

Just a few days before one group, saying it is the proper manager of a 40-year-old local charity, plans to reopen its decades-old location, another group saying it is the rightful manager has taken action likely to send the dispute to the courts.

Sheila Forshee, whose group plans Saturday to reopen the North Havre location of the Community Giveaway House, said her group will prevail in the dispute and has the paperwork to document that it is the proper board for the nonprofit corporation.

"The rest will come out in court," she said.

A board headed by Sue Markley of Havre plans to file a complaint the board's attorney, Tyler Gernant of Missoula, said he mailed Monday to State District Court in Havre.

Hill County Clerk of Court Dena Tippets said this morning she had not yet received the complaint, and Forshee said she was not aware of it.

Gernant provided a copy of the complaint to the Havre Daily News.

The complaint says a corporate annual report Forshee, treasurer of the board the complaint is written against, filed in March with the Montana Secretary of State was a false report and that she drafted and executed that report under a potential misdemeanor criminal penalty of false swearing.

The complaint requests the court issue a decree that the board headed by Markley is the actual board for the nonprofit Community Give-A-Way House Inc. and that the members of the other board do not have any authority to act on behalf of the corporation. It also asks the court decree that the house at 1058 2nd St. North has been used through the period for charitable purposes as required by the deed that turned the property over to the corporation, that Forshee and others acting with her lose any current or future right to the property; and that the defendants turn over any Giveaway House property to the plaintiffs including keys to the North Havre property. It also asked the court to award any "actual and punitive damages" in an amount to be determined at trial.

Forshee said this morning that her group plans to reopen the Community Giveaway House Saturday.

Markley and her board have been working to find a new location for the charity more centrally located in Havre, including making an offer on the former location of The Salvation Army on the 600 Block of 2nd Street.

The Giveaway House charity accepts donations of clothes and other items and gives them to people free of charge. It was created about 1970 by Forshee's grandmother, Ruth Nystrom, and Ann Friesen.

In 1989, Nystrom incorporated the charity as a nonprofit, and she and her husband, Karl Nystrom, signed over the deed to the North Havre property, where the charity operated, to the corporation.

The deed states that if the corporation or its successors stop using the property for charitable purposes, it would revert back to Ruth and Karl Nystrom or their heirs.

The situation began to come to a head late last year. A group of people involved in the Giveaway House, including Markley, demanded Forshee resign. According to minutes of a January meeting provided by Roberta Beute, now a director of the board listed by Forshee in March, Forshee explained reasons for some of the complaints raised against her, including failure to file paperwork resulting in the Internal Revenue Service revoking the corporation's tax-exempt nonprofit status.

That led to Beute drafting a letter dated Jan. 24 apparently sent to volunteers of the charity, saying the charity was under reorganization and all "previous persons listed as officers, members, and Directors have been disassociated with (the charity) at this time."

Forshee also changed the locks on the property at that time.

The report Forshee filed in March 2012 listed the officers — Kelly Ann Damson as president, Markley as vice president, Faye James as secretary, Forshee as treasurer and Edith Anderson as "other" — without listing them as directors. According to the bylaws of the corporation, the directors have exclusive voting rights in the corporation.

Bernice Campbell, Judy Litzinger and Jolene Ophus were listed in 2012 as the directors, and on Feb. 8, they took action of their own.

Campbell, Litzinger and Ophus signed a document in which they removed Damson and Forshee as officers and accepted the resignations of James, Anderson and Litzinger and appointed Markley, Janet Tams, Jim Howendobler and Paula Case as new directors, with Ophus continuing as a director.

The document shows the directors appointed Markley as president, Ophus as vice president and Tams as secretary-treasurer.

The new board filed an annual report Feb. 10 for the corporation with the Montana Secretary of State's Office listing those directors and officers.

Then Forshee filed an addendum with the Secretary of State's Office March 11 listing an entirely different slate of directors and officers. That report lists Forshee, Roberta Beute, Rebecca Wolcott, Jacob Wolcott and Ursula Brese as the directors, with Brese listed as president, Vickie Niederegger as vice president, Beute as secretary, Forshee as treasurer, and Kelly Ann Damson as "other."

The complaint Gernant is filing in court lists the Community Give-A-Way House Inc. as the plaintiff with the defendants Rebecca Wolcott, Jacob Wolcott, Forshee, Beute, Brese, Niederegger and Damson.


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