Staff and Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Attorney General Drew Edmondson has asked a Kay County judge to block the planned closure of a foster children's home in Ponca City that would displace 44 children just days after Christmas.
Edmondson on Tuesday sought a temporary restraining order and injunction to stop the Dec. 31 closure of the American Legion Children's Home and the January 2011 auction of the home's assets.
He also wants to remove three members of the children's home board, invalidate decisions made during an allegedly illegal board meeting and appoint a receiver to manage the home's assets. The attorney general alleges those who want to close the facility violated Oklahoma statutes.
Save the Children's Home Angels, a citizen's group composed of citizens, individual American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary members and child advocates, requested a formal investigation into the matter by the Oklahoma Attorney General late last week. They specifically asked that the Oklahoma Attorney General initiate litigation to appoint a receiver to protect the assets of children's home in Ponca City until a viable solution could be reached regarding its future. To date, several charities have expressed an interest in taking over the home's operations.
"Our number one priority is to keep the home operating, to continue providing a safe and stable environment for these 44 kids, and to preserve the jobs of 65 dedicated employees" said Diane Beekman, spokesperson for the Save the Children's Angels and a member of the local American Legion Auxiliary Unit 14. "In order for that to happen, though, the home's assets need to be protected so that they can be transferred to another qualified nonprofit organization that is willing to step in."
Beekman said that intervention by the Attorney General's office was necessary because the Oklahoma American Legion has refused to cooperate in any discussions with interested parties to allow the transfer of the operation of the real and personal property of the home.
Lawyers for Save the Children's Home Angels, the Northcutt Law Firm and McAfee & Taft, contend that the home's assets, including the 100 acres upon which the facility resides, cannot be used or transferred to the American Legion for any other purpose. They can, however, be transferred to another charity, as it was the intent of the original donors to use those assets for the operation of a tax-exempt home for children.
"Joining us in this fight to save the Children's Home are the heirs of E.W. Marland, the Oklahoma oilman who donated the land for the American Legion Children's Home in 1928," said attorney Joseph Bocock. "He specifically stipulated that use of the property was restricted to a home for children; otherwise, the deed to the land would revert to his heirs. As of last Friday, we have secured consent of those heirs for the transfer of the Home to another nonprofit organization they approve."