County sues bank over missing bonds

7/12/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Finney County has filed a lawsuit against Bank of America in Finney County District Court seeking a judgment of $60,000 for bonds purchased nearly 30 years ago to benefit the public library and to put into a time capsule. The bonds were apparently misplaced when the capsule was opened.

The civil suit, filed June 18, claims that on or around April 18, 1984, the Brookover Charitable Foundation purchased and registered bonds worth $60,000 in the county's name for the benefit of the public library.

A copy of the bonds was put into a time capsule and buried in Stevens Park. The original bonds were placed in the Garden National Bank for safekeeping.

When the capsule was opened in December 2008, it contained a copy of the original bond certificate, and a letter from the late Earl C. Brookover Sr., outlining the intent of the gift.

Mergers and changes of bank ownership over more than two decades made it difficult to locate records.

Garden National Bank changed hands four times since 1984, first being sold to Fourth Financial Corp., then Boatmen's Bank, then NationsBank before being purchased around 1999 by Bank of America.

The suit clams that Bank of America is responsible for Garden National Bank's obligations as the successor of Garden National Bank. The county has asked Bank of America to account for the bonds or proceeds, but has been told it transferred the duties to an undisclosed third party, and the county has been unable to determine who took possession of the bonds, who has them now, or how to get the proceeds.

As a result, the county is asking the court for a judgment of $60,000 from Bank of America. Multiple attempts to reach anyone with Bank of America for comment were unsuccessful.

The library's board of trustees made several unsuccessful attempts to locate the bonds before turning the issue over to Finney County in March 2009 with the hope that the county would have better luck tracking the bonds down.

According to a 2011 Telegram story, county officials pursued several routes to locate the money, from tracking leads through the sheriff's office in case the funds could be traced or had been stolen, to talking to state officials and the Office of the Kansas Securities Commissioner.

Randy Partington, county administrator, said Thursday all avenues have been exhausted in trying to locate the bonds.

"Tracking where the bond went, we kept running into dead ends. Our county counselor (Tom Burgardt) thought that really the only thing we could do is file a lawsuit and see if the bond will show up," Partington said. "It's about the last thing we know we can do."

Partington said county officials have no idea where the bonds could be, they only know they were last in possession of the bank.

Dave Jones, county commission chairman, said because the bank changed hands so many times, the issue probably became more complicated than it should have, and all the county wants is the original copy of the bond that was taken to the bank, so the money can go to the library.

"We're not trying to create ill will with anyone, but we have not been successful so far. We didn't know what other avenue to take, other than the action just taken," Jones said. "We want to move this one direction or another, and hopefully, this will help somebody find the missing documents."

Jones said those funds would have a tremendous impact on the library in helping fund its new outdoor classroom.

The library broke ground on its Nature Explore classroom on May 31. Located on the northwest side of the library's property, the 10,000-square-foot outdoor classroom will feature an entry arbor, gathering circle, gardening area, nature art, water wall, a stage and music area, an open movement area, a building block area, a secret pathway, a messy materials area, a climbing area and a water pump and sluice.

According to library officials, roughly 80 percent of the $360,000 needed to complete the project has been raised, so $60,000 could go a long way toward finalizing fundraising.

"That would be significant for them," Jones said. "They work pretty tightly on a limited budget anyway, and they've been waiting for a long time."

Darla Daniels, current library board chairwoman, agreed the funds would mean a lot, and would go far in helping bring the outdoor classroom project to completion.

"It's coming together with grants and private donations," she said. "We've raised a lot."

Basically, Daniels hopes there is finally some resolution to the missing bonds question.

Former library board chairman Rocky Cook said it's unfortunate how the situation has played out.

"The countless hours and effort that has gone into trying to collect it so far has really diminished the value and spirit of the gift. It's been so many years now, and I feel really bad for the Brookover people who were so generous about this," Cook said. "To have the banks and the bank system effectively take the money away ... I just feel strongly about it."

Cook said the money would help the library in several ways, including the current classroom project, but also for some other improvements to the facility, which was built in 1986.

"A lot of things need to be replaced. It's one of the most used buildings in the county," he said.

According to Partington, a hearing concerning the suit hasn't been set yet.

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