Helen Plummer's daughter filed a lawsuit Friday alleging theft, fraud and negligence on the part of the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs, the East Baton Rouge Metro Council and those who helped Plummer draft a will that has stirred controversy over the past year.
The family of 95-year-old Plummer claimed in March 2017 that Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar pressured the elderly woman into allowing Clark-Amar to collect hefty fees to oversee her estate and trust. Plummer was an East Baton Rouge Council on Aging client who died in March of last year.
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The ensuing fallout has led to multiple lawsuits and investigations by the State Office of Inspector General and the Louisiana Board of Ethics. Attorney Dorothy Jackson, who drafted the will through Southern University's Elder Law clinic, is on leave and a faculty panel recently recommended that she receive a yearlong unpaid suspension and a demotion in rank.
Clark-Amar and Jackson have both tried to step away from the controversy. Clark-Amar removed herself as executor and trustee of Plummer's estate after intense media scrutiny, and Jackson also removed herself as the attorney for the succession.
Plummer's family has also recently reached a settlement agreement that divvies up her estate with family members.
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But a lawsuit filed Friday in 19th Judicial District Court by an attorney for Plummer’s daughter, Jacquelyn Antoine, says the lack of oversight from multiple governmental agencies led to the creation of Plummer's much-disputed will. The suit filed by attorney Robert Garrity describes Clark-Amar and Jackson as "co-conspirators."
The suit alleges that Clark-Amar learned of Plummer's financial status through their relationship at the Council on Aging, and claims that Clark-Amar "through fraud and deceit" took Plummer to "her local bank to examine records of her accounts." Clark-Amar convinced the elderly woman that her family was stealing from her, according to the lawsuit.
Clark-Amar's attorney did not return calls seeking comment Friday about the lawsuit.
Jackson used her position at Southern "to personally enrich herself" and to benefit Clark-Amar, the lawsuit claims. Jackson's attorney said Friday that the lawsuit is littered with factual inaccuracies.
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"We deny the allegations there was any conspiracy," said Bill Aaron, Jackson's New Orleans-based attorney. "And we're prepared to bring 20 witnesses to court who were there when Ms. Plummer said she wanted to write her daughter and granddaughter out of the will."
Aaron also maintained that Antoine has not sustained damages. While Plummer's original will excluded Antoine, the recent settlement agreement from the family allows Antoine to keep two homes — a significant portion of Plummer's estate. He said Plummer's great-grandchildren, who originally stood to receive the money from the homes, are the ones who should be suing their family members for lessening the amount of money they will receive from Plummer's estate.
Antoine’s lawsuit also points a finger at City Hall. It says the Metro Council was negligent when it "failed to enact policies and procedures that would prevent the employees and the management of the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging from taking advantage of elderly clients for their own gain and profit."
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Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson said Friday that she had no comment on the lawsuit.
The suit makes similar claims about the Council on Aging, the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs and goes even further with Southern University. The lawsuit says Southern has "continued to participate in the scheme of conspiracy and fraud" by conducting its own, secretive investigation.
Gov. John Bel Edwards' spokeswoman Shauna Sanford said Friday that they had just become aware of the lawsuit and needed time to receive and review it. Southern University Law Center Chancellor John Pierre said he had no comment.
The lawsuit alleges Antoine has had to spend "substantial amounts of personal funds" to dispute the will and to challenge Clark-Amar and Jackson's conduct. It requests a jury trial and asks the defendants to pay the costs of attorneys' fees and all the other costs of the legal proceedings.
The case has been assigned to State Judge Wilson Fields.