As May 31 approaches, marking the possible conclusion to the 88-year tenure of Camp Coleman, those fighting to save the site eagerly await a report from the Friends of Camp Coleman (FoCC).
A recent ruling in a discovery petition has the grassroots advocates celebrating.
On April 29, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship ruled that the camp advocates can have what they’ve requested from the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama (GSNCA), including 10,945 pages of documentation containing board minutes, profit and loss statements, etc. justifying the council and board’s decision to close Camp Coleman.
Blankenship also ordered GSNCA to release the documentation without receiving the $16,950 it had required FoCC to pay as a fee for an alleged 339 hours needed to gather the documentation. The ruling reduces copying fees from $.50 per page to $.11 per page.
Deeming the records open to membership, the court denied a GSNCA protective order request, which would have restricted those able to see the documentation to the petitioner and her attorneys.
Sarah Edwards, who was elected to the GSNCA board on April 27 along with 11 other grassroots supporters, originally filed the petition. Because of her new board member status, Edwards passed the petition to Karen Carroll.
The FoCC, happy to finally have the pages in sight, hopes the documentation proves the council’s decision to divest of the property was unwise and unwarranted.
The council lawyer, Daniel Burnick, “indicated that they would be available Monday, May 13, 2013,” said Amber Ladner of Bradford Ladner, LLP, the legal team representing Carroll.
Of the ruling, Carroll said, “I think it’s a good deal. Now, I’m just waiting on the paperwork so I can go through with it.”
“We will know more when we are able to review the documents,” said Ladner. “In general, we are interested in looking at the financial information regarding whether they are in fact losing money and what financial support it would take to maintain the camps. We are also interested in the data regarding camp usage and the results of the ‘survey’ that was done about the camps. Overall, the question is whether the information supports the decision to sell the camps.”
For Carroll and others involved in the yearlong fight for transparency (recently including an apparent incident of plagiarism in support of the council and in the name of a former GSNCA Woman of Distinction), the ruling offers members a chance to understand the council’s motivation.
“I’m ready for this to go on by so we can stop the sale [of Camp Coleman],” Carroll said, “and that should get to the bottom of: ‘Why did they need all of this money all of the sudden?’ and, ‘Why are they not supporting the girls?’”
Carroll was pleased the judge waived the $16,950, as she saw both the 339 hours and the hourly rate as “a delay tactic, honestly. Really, they should have had all of that together.”
As for the copy fees, Ladner said the court ruled that any fee would be assessed after Carroll received the documentation.
The GSNCA, which has not returned Weld’s interview requests for the past several weeks, does have an opportunity to fight this decision. “GSNCA could seek relief from the appellate courts in Montgomery,” Ladner said, “by filing a petition with the appellate court requesting that they intervene and order Judge Blankenship to change or amend his order in some way.”
The GSNCA at times posts online updates of the three-phase property plan that included Camp Coleman’s closure and the discovery petition for its nearly 20,000 members. But Ladner said, “We do not have any information regarding GSNCA informing the general membership of the latest developments.” GSNCA posted the most recent update on February 6 – before the judge ruled against the council.
Both Ladner and Carroll contend all information should be made available to the membership. Carroll expects to find discrepancies between what the GSNCA has reported to its board and members regarding finances and camp usage and what the documentation shows.
“We don’t seem to have the new president’s attention,” Carroll said, “[but] she said she would take this under advisement.”
Barely two weeks after new board members were elected and less than two weeks away from the scheduled closing date of the camp, Carroll hopes to sway the board to both review the GSNCA decision and halt the sale of Camp Coleman.