Judge signs order to stop razing of Baylor alumni center

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Posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 9:10 pm

A federal judge Tuesday signed a temporary restraining order to stop demolition of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center on the Baylor University campus.

The building was slated for demolition as part of the Baylor Stadium project, following an agreement brokered in June between the university and members of the executive committee of the Baylor Alumni Association.

As part of the transition agreement, the association agreed to dissolve and turn over most of its alumni outreach functions to the university and also to vacate the alumni center by Wednesday.

The university plans to use the space, located on University Parks Drive, as an approach to a pedestrian bridge that would cross the Brazos River.

Although members of the association’s executive committee approved the proposal in June, the final vote on the proposal is not scheduled until Sept. 7, when it will be put to the association’s membership and board of 
directors.

Two-thirds of the members who attend the meeting would have to vote in favor of the agreement to ratify it.

It was thought that the agreement could bring to an end the tensions between the university and the BAA, an independent nonprofit corporation, that have existed since the early 2000s.

Kurt H. Dorr, a member of the Baylor Alumni Association and a 1983 graduate, requested the temporary restraining order against Baylor University and the Baylor Alumni Association, as well as Elizabeth E. Coker, a Polk County district court judge and former president of the association’s board of directors, and Collin Cox, a Houston attorney who serves as president of the association’s board of directors.

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith signed the order Tuesday.

Gerald Haddock, a Fort Worth-based attorney and one of five attorneys who is representing Dorr, described the essence of the case as “the democratic process and voting” and protecting the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center from destruction until the final vote could take place.

Meanwhile, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman chalked up the development to an internal problem at the BAA. Association staff who were working out of the Hughes-Dillard building already have relocated to the Clifton Robinson Tower, she said.

“For more than 10 months, Baylor officials have been engaged in active negotiation with the elected leadership of the Baylor Alumni Association, and we now find ourselves co-defendants in a judicial process,” Fogleman said. “While Baylor will vigorously defend the case, we understand this principally as an internal governance issue concerning one member of the BAA and the elected leadership of the BAA. We expect that the court will sort this out.”

$75,000 value

Dorr, who lives in the Chicago area, is not seeking monetary damages, but injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order to “preserve possession of the Hughes-Dillard building and the BAA’s other assets” pending a vote by the association’s members, court documents state. The building itself is valued at about $75,000, according to the complaint.

The complaint further alleges that the university does not need to destroy the building as part of its Baylor Stadium project.

Haddock said Dorr is a 52-year-old financial adviser and banker, as well as a longtime “friend and supporter of Baylor University and the Baylor Alumni Association.”

A group of association members, incorporated as Independence at Baylor LLC, has been lobbying the organization’s board of directors to reject the agreement, arguing that the proposal violates a 1993 license agreement between the BAA and the university.

The document, the group argues, gives the BAA the perpetual right to perform alumni functions except in the case of a default on
its part.

The group also contends that requiring the BAA to move out of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center by Wednesday as part of the transition agreement violates a 1994 contract governing the association’s continued use of the 
building.

Proponents of the proposal said the transition agreement allowed an independent voice of the alumni association to continue through the Baylor Line magazine, while consolidating the alumni outreach effort.

Neither Coker nor Cox could be reached Tuesday for comment.

A hearing on the temporary restraining order is set for July 10, when a judge will determine whether to extend the order.

Tribune-Herald staff writer Regina Dennis contributed to this story.

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