May 5, 2003
Both Georgia convention and Shorter claim victory at court
___ROME, Ga. (ABP)--Shorter College can proceed with its plan to dissolve and transfer its assets to a newly formed foundation, a judge ruled April 23, but the Georgia Baptist Convention still has the right to elect the college's board of trustees, he added.
___DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Daniel Coursey Jr. lifted a temporary restraining order, allowing the college's plan for reorganization to move forward.
___But the judge also ruled that the convention, although not an "owner" of the college, has the right to elect its board of trustees. Under the reorganization plan, however, elected trustees of the college will have little power.
___Shorter College, located in Rome, Ga., has 2,100 students and has been affiliated with the convention since 1959.
___Late last year, the college's trustees voted to sever ties with the state convention and transfer assets of the college, estimated at $50 million, to the Shorter College Foundation. This action was taken in response to a March 2002 report by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that claimed "undue pressure is being placed on the board of trustees by an outside agency, namely the Georgia Baptist Convention" and recommended the school change its bylaws.
___The convention, however, said the reorganization was an attempt to "steal" the college from Georgia Baptists.
___The April 23 ruling left both sides claiming victory but several key issues unclear. Judge Coursey earlier noted the ruling is likely to be reviewed by the Georgia Supreme Court.
___"We won the case," Shorter President Ed Schrader told the Rome News-Tribune. "The judge saw we had the right to reincorporate the college."
___But the Georgia Baptist Convention issued a statement saying the convention is "gratified" that it still has the right to elect trustees. "The convention believes it would be a mistake for Shorter to continue with its dissolution in that it is not in the best interest of the college, its students or its financial viability."
___It is unclear if the college will have to seat trustees nominated by the convention last November but rejected by Shorter. Those trustees did not participate in the vote to dissolve and reconstitute the college.
___"We intend for the properly constituted board to reconsider this dissolution plan," said Richard Robbins, an attorney representing a group of trustees opposed to the Shorter reorganization.
___However, Shorter officials immediately filed the school's new articles of incorporation April 23, which create a new, separate board. "The ruling ensures Shorter will remain fully accredited and allows us to take the prudent steps to reorganize under new articles of incorporation, which include a self-perpetuating board of trustees," Schrader said.
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