A petty argument over words threatens to end the Fishtown Neighbors Association.
When I last left this, a lawsuit had been filed by Jordan Rushie*, a former FNA board member against Jamie Ware, former president of FNA.
The lawsuit stems from a controversy over a funding grant application made to the Penn Treaty Special Services District. PTSSD receives and distributes $1,000,000 annually from Sugarhouse Casino as part of a community benefits agreement. Rushie assisted a grant application to PTSSD on behalf of Salon Blush, a hair salon located at York and Cedar Street, while Rushie was a board member of the Fishtown Neighbors Association.
At the time of this writing, two additional former FNA presidents have been captioned into the lawsuit; former FNA president Neil Brecher and former FNA president Jill Betters.
The last two additions to the defendants list stem from a communication Brecher allegedly sent to other FNA board members. Quoting from the amended complaint:
69. On June 5, 2015, Brecher circulated another email to Jamie Ware stating that the PTSSD grant request application “poses a huge risk to the reputation as well as the 501c3 status of the organization.”
Brecher then continued…
“[b]ottom line is that at the very least, Jordan [Rushie] has to be asked to resign fom the board. I will not be dismissed on this point.”
And, in another email:
“There’s no mistake what he was doing. He was deliberately defrauding the FNA.”
What Was Illegal?
Brecher doesn’t specifically state where Rushie went outside the realm of the legal into the den of the illicit. No one can seem to identify what, if anything, was illegal about Rushie helping Salon Blush fill out and file a PTSSD grant application. Except one thing: Rushie did not pre-clear the grant application through Brecher, who was not on the board of the FNA, or several other board members. That certainly made Brecher and some board members upset.
The amended complaint also states that several oral conversations and meetings subsequent to Brecher’s objections, the FNA board proceeded with eliminating Rushie from the FNA board, stating that his support of a hair salon’s funding grant application to PTSSD was illegal and exhibited self-dealing.
Another FNA member [name suppressed since he’s not part of the suit] then tried to step in and give general caution to Jamie Ware, then the FNA president, about members confidently stating that Rushie’s actions were illegal:
It’s not clear if FNA actually sought legal advice to determine whether or not the Salon Blush grant application broke the law.
Lawyers, Lawyers, Lawyers
As of now at least six attorneys from two law firms have been captioned into the lawsuit representing the Fishtown Neighbors Association. This is just a guess, but the invoicing to FNA’s insurance carrier for director’s and officer’s insurance is bound to be a hefty tab if there’s this many people touching the file.
Thus far the FNA has not responded to the complaint on the Common Pleas Docket and isn’t expected to until the last amended complaint is made.
The longer this stretches out and as FNA’s six attorneys bill hours to insurance companies for sending e-mails and making phone calls, the less likely it will be for FNA to remain in good graces with its insurance carrier. Without insurance coverage the FNA would have to keep a hefty amount of cash reserves handy to cover other litigation, including filing and defending lawsuits on subjects core to representing Fishtowners.
Ironically, FNA receives significant funding through PTSSD grant-making, which is how this lawsuit got started in the first place. If this case proceeds to trial and FNA loses, it could then face a damages assessment which would shutter the civic association with near certainty.
There doesn’t appear to be any settlement or easing-up of positions on either side of this lawsuit. It’s still early and there’s plenty of space between now and the start of a jury trial for the claims made in the complaint to be argued in motions.
A tentative trial date has been set for summer of next year.
* Rushie is an attorney and also represents Philadelinquency. Tags: Jordan Rushie | Neil Brecher | Jill Betters | Fishtown Neighbors Association | Jamie Ware