The Texas Attorney General’s Office is considering whether to intervene in Baylor University’s lawsuit with the Baylor Alumni Association because it has jurisdiction in cases involving charitable trusts.
Assistant Attorney General Amanda K. Hudson informed the parties in the ongoing dispute that the attorney general “is a proper party to such action and may intervene on the behalf of the public’s interest in charity.”
She said she is reviewing documents to determine if the attorney general’s participation is warranted.
Baylor sued the BAA in June in the latest salvo between the two sides. The BAA has pledged to file a countersuit, but as of Monday, its attorney said it had not yet been served with Baylor’s suit, filed in early June in Waco’s 74th State District Court.
“Right now, everyone is taking a deep breath and trying to figure out where things go from here,” said J.D. Pauerstein, the San Antonio attorney who represents the BAA.
Lauren Bean, deputy communications director for the attorney general’s office, said that under the Texas Property Code, the AG’s office must be given notice of all “proceedings involving a charitable trust.”
“At this time, the attorney general’s office is strictly monitoring this case and currently has no plans to get involved in this litigation,” she said.
Baylor, saying it has severed licensing agreements with the BAA, is seeking to prevent the group from using the university’s name.
The BAA has countered that those agreements, which also allowed the BAA to operate as Baylor’s official alumni organization, are in effect in perpetuity and cannot be terminated.
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman referred questions about the attorney general’s possible involvement in the lawsuit to a section of Baylor’s petition that says litigants must notify the attorney general’s office in cases involving charitable trusts.
A transition agreement drafted by Baylor regents and a group of elected BAA leaders and members of the board, which would have dissolved the organizations’ charter, failed to gain enough votes from alumni association members to pass. Those leaders and several other association board members resigned after the vote failed.
“We have tried for several years now to reach an agreement with the university that enables us to preserve our name, the title of our magazine, the Baylor Line, and keeps our commitment to thousands of Baylor alumni,” BAA President Keith Starr said when the lawsuit was filed.
“However, the university has rejected our attempts at peace for over a decade and has chosen to continue its efforts to marginalize the BAA, up to and including suing its officially recognized alumni organization,” he said.
Starr, no relation to Baylor President Ken Starr, deferred comment Monday to Pauerstein.
Pauerstein said Monday that litigants involved in cases involving charitable trusts are required by law to notify the attorney general’s office.
“Historically, when I have been involved in cases where the attorney general’s office has been notified, they only intervene if it is perceived the particular charity is one that involves a lot of public interests. They may choose to intervene, but since it is a Baylor-oriented entity, I tend to think not,” Pauerstein said.
Baylor alleges in the lawsuit that the BAA has “abandoned its charitable purposes” as outlined in the association’s bylaws, including raising money for student scholarships.
The suit highlights a $1 million scholarship pledge from the BAA in February 2013 that was not completed.
The BAA, however, says it was not completed because of the dispute surrounding the transition agreement. Keith Starr said after the lawsuit was filed that the BAA has not abandoned its charitable purpose, but it has been impeded by Baylor.