Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

December 20, 2012

Bankruptcy judge tentatively approves LMC employee payback but wants to review legal documents first

TYLER —

A federal judge offered tentative approval Thursday to a $137,000 settlement agreement between Lon Morris College and the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation, but stressed he will need to carefully review the wording of their unsigned agreement order first.

Judge Bill Parker's caution comes from concerns voiced during the hearing alleging the unsigned agreement order was last-minute and could impose unnecessary restrictions down the line on the UMHEF endowment fund from which the settlement money is being taken.

Both Texas Attorney General representative Hal F. Morris and Tye C. Hancock, a Houston attorney representing the Scurlock Foundation, made the case for caution.

Houston attorney Hugh Ray III vigorously opposed the objection, alleging that because Hal Morris did not object to the tentative agreement itself, he should not be allowed to do so for the final agreement order.

This hearing took place one day after Parker, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Texas, approved the remaining $350,000 of a $500,000 Debtor-In-Possession loan from "a syndicate of lenders" that includes Amegy Bank, N.A., Scurlock Foundation, Heartspring Methodist Foundation, and Martha Squibb, with Amegy serving as administrative agent, court documents show.

This D.I.P. Loan, LMC's second since the bankruptcy proceedings began, was requested by Lon Morris earlier this month. At that hearing, Parker granted $150,000 of the request.

The Lon Morris-UMHEF agreement is expected to pay $130,000 in back wages to furloughed LMC employees and $7,000 to the LMC bankruptcy estate.

In return, the LMC bankruptcy estate has agreed to abandon its attempts to access the $1 million restricted endowment fund, which will number at roughly $900,000 after the payout.

The AG has recently been monitoring the LMC bankruptcy proceedings because of the estate's approach to some endowments as a potential source of revenue to defray bankruptcy costs.

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