Attorneys challenge Maddox Foundation transfer of $34 million
The motion (available at this link) asserts that Costa last year moved $34 million of the trust’s assets from Merrill Lynch to a community bank in Hernando, Miss., without approval. Costa shifted the money while Tennessee courts were attempting to establish who controlled the foundation. An appeals court had since ruled that the foundation was an asset of the Maddox trust.
Waller and Johnson reach beyond Costa and the foundation and take on the Maddox Foundation’s Mississippi law firm, Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush. That is the firm of Mississippi Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who is the attorney representing the foundation and purportedly had an affair with Costa while in political office.
They state that the Mississippi firm has been complicit in interfering with the Tennessee court orders, specifically in a matter with the Internal Revenue Service, blocking the plaintiffs from obtaining certain information on the foundation.
“All in all, Ms. Costa and the Maddox Foundation, through the services of Copeland Cook and Governor Musgrove, have done everything in their power to sabotage the orders of this court and attempt to frustrate this Court’s proper jurisdiction over the assets of the Maddox Foundation Trust, which specifically include the Maddox Foundation Corporation,” the filing states. “Worst of all, they have been using Maddox Foundation assets to fund these activities.”
They note that the firm has been paid at least $1.5 million in fees out of foundation assets, possibly in violation of court orders. They want the Probate Court to order Costa and the foundation to recover the money from Musgrove and his law firm or pay the money herself. They specifically note that the general counsel of the Mississippi bank now holding $34 million in foundation assets, BankPlus, was formerly with Copeland Cook, and that the firm represents the bank.
And to put the final nail into it, Waller and Johnson asked the court to order Musgrove to be admitted to practice in Tennessee if he is to appear on behalf of Costa and the foundation here.
Nashville Post, February 2007
Was the Musgrove tale just the beginning?
As trial nears in Maddox Foundation case, other evidence emerges of leader’s sexual escapades with men affiliated with the foundation.
Next month’s trial over who should control the Maddox Foundation was shaping up to be merely the culmination of years of dreary legal haggling in a dispute over one wealthy couple’s estate. It suddenly became more interesting with the revelation last week of explosive claims that foundation chief Robin Costa had an affair with former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove — who is now part of the legal team that has billed $1 million worth of work to the foundation in the ongoing litigation.
But there’s more.
Legal observers suspect that the team trying to bring the organization’s assets back to Nashville — Davidson County District Attorney Torry Johnson along with Woody Woodruff and the rest of his Waller Landsen Dortch & Davis legal crew who represent Tommye Maddox Working, the step-granddaughter of the late Dan Maddox — would not have petitioned for the deposition containing the Musgrove claims to be unsealed if they did not intend to make Costa’s personal conduct a central issue in the upcoming trial, which gets underway on October 23.
And NashvillePost.com has learned that there is evidence in the public record of conduct by Costa, involving employees of the foundation, that makes the image of Governor Musgrove sucking her toes look positively quaint by comparison.
The evidence comes from a sexual harassment case against Costa that was settled out of court last year. Testimony in that case portrays Costa as having a prodigious appetite for amorous involvement with employees, painting a curious portrait of how she conducts business and handles employee relations. It’s a portrait that would seem to fit with Working’s claims that Costa has been cavalier in managing the foundation.
The Musgrove bombshell emerged after attorneys for Working got the testimony of Tara Hermansen unsealed in order to make the point that Costa was using foundation assets to pay an attorney with whom she’d allegedly had a personal relationship.
Nashville Post from 2006
One toe over the line? Y’all Politics Memory Division
Musgrove, unlike Morris in an infamous incident a decade ago, is said to have focused his peculiar ardor not on a prostitute but on Robin Costa, the trustee and director of the Maddox Foundation. He has been representing her in fending off a legal effort by Tommye Maddox Working, step-granddaughter of the late Dan Maddox, and Davidson County District Attorney Torry Johnson to move the foundation and its millions back to Nashville from Mississippi.
Musgrove’s taste for Costa’s toes was revealed Tuesday, along with other details of the supposed relationship, when Davidson County Probate Court Judge Randy Kennedy ordered a portion of former Maddox Foundation employee Tera Hermansen ‘s 2004 deposition unsealed. According to Hermansen’s testimony, Costa would tell her and other female employees about her romantic encounters with Musgrove while he was still governor.
The stated purpose for unsealing the testimony was to so show that Musgrove has had a less than professional relationship with Costa, even as he is among the attorneys who have received $1 million in fees to defend the foundation.
“Ms. Hermansen’s testimony regarding the relationship between Ms. Costa and her principal Mississippi lawyer underscores the extreme degree of waste to which trust assets are subjected and raises the specter that Ms. Costa is using tax-exempt assets to confer a private benefit to others and obtain a private instrument for herself,” Woody Woodruff, an attorney with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis representing Maddox Working, wrote in his motion (a copy of which is available at this link).
excerpts from the Nashville Post in 2006
Where Giving Ends
Inside the battle to control a once-lucrative Nashville charity
But Costa’s attorneys will put Working’s credibility to the test. (Former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, whom Costa met through a program to place computers in Mississippi classrooms, has even joined Costa’s legal defense, traveling once to Nashville for a hearing last November.)
Costa appointed by Musgrove as commissioner
Hernando, Apr 2, 2003 – Governor Musgrove appointed nine new Commissioners late last fall to serve on the board of the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, including Robin Costa, president of the Maddox Foundation. The board, made up of twenty-two Commissioners, guides the funding decisions for all national service grant dollars. In 1985, Robin Costa began her career with the Maddox Companies. She served as Secretary and Treasurer from 1992 to 1994 and Chief Operating Officer from 1994 to 1998. After the tragic and untimely death of her mentors, she is currently the president of the Maddox Foundation, which played an integral role in getting a computer in every classroom in Mississippi. She is one of the founders of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, served on the board of the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits, and the DeSoto Economic Council. She also is president of the River Kings Hockey Team and president of AF2 arena football. Using these sports connections, Robin has raised thousands of dollars for area nonprofits.
Maddox Foundation Press Release 2003
A Barn-Raising for the Internet Age
Among those who gathered to mark the occasion was Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who shortly after his election two years ago set a goal of having an Internet-connected computer in every public-school classroom in the state by the end of 2002. That accomplishment would be a first for any state, according to the National Governors Association in Washington — and an uncommon distinction for Mississippi, whose public education system has for years ranked near or at the bottom in most national assessments.
Such ambitions are now commonplace, said Robin Costa, president of the Maddox Foundation, a philanthropic organization that has supported ExplorNet. She said she became involved with the governor’s initiative to get computers into Mississippi classrooms after moving to the state from Nashville and noticing that her daughter had no computer in her elementary school classroom.
One of the most exciting results, she said, is not only that computers are being placed in classrooms, but that the students who built them are learning marketable skills. Preparing students for certification as computer technicians is an important goal of the program.
NY Times 2002