FACC case: Judge rules ‘no legal capacity’ to Lehman; allows her lawyer to file “amended petition”

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) — Like any human being, the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago (FACGC), which took a life of its own when it was incorporated on March 5, 1953 under the name of The Filipino National Council of Chicago (FNCC), cannot be represented by two competing lawyers.

In upholding the argument of Filipino American lawyer Arcadio “Jun” Joaquin, Jr., Circuit Court of Cook County Judge Sophia H. Hall denied the petition of Filipino American Maria Elaine Campos-Moya Lehman’s lawyer Jonathan Strauss. Strauss petitioned the court to intervene on behalf of the FACC on the pending lawsuit filed by Joaquin to stop Lehman, 51, from further assuming her duties as “Executive Director” and/or “Resident Manager” of the Rizal Heritage Center (RHC) in the north side of Chicago, Illinois.

Joaquin has accused Lehman of committing “several other acts, which are adverse, inimical and prejudicial to the interests of FACC.”

In an order handed down on Sept. 19 after an oral argument on Lehman’s attempt to cloak herself as a legitimate party to represent the FACC, Judge Hall, however, gave Lehman an opportunity to file an “amended petition to intervene”. The case is set for status hearing on Oct. 17, 2017.

A jubilant Joaquin said the judge’s denial of Lehman’s petition to intervene simply means that she has “no legal capacity and no legal authority to file the motion to intervene on behalf of the FACGC.” Strauss, he said, “was given leave (permission) to file an amended motion if he so desires. And if there will be no amended motion, the (motion) case will forever be denied.”

SEEKING INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

In her petition, Lehman’s lawyer opposed Joaquin’s emergency motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction with notice against Lehman. Joaquin’s motion sought injunctive relief, ordering Lehman to immediately vacate the premises of the Rizal Heritage Center, to cease and desist from entering the Building, to cease representing the FACC, and to surrender the keys to the Building. It also sought to restore two tenancies in the Building which Lehman dismissed.

Lehman’s lawyer said since her appointment “as Executive Director of the FACC, a schism occurred and two different and distinct groups now claim to represent the FACC as its Board of Directors.

“Each claims support from the Filipino community of Greater Chicago, which comprise (sic) the membership of the FACC and the two factions appear to be divided along political lines as well as geographical lines based on the specific islands of the Philippines their families emigrated from,” said Strauss.

“Allegations of cronyism, corruption, and incompetence have been alleged by both factions. Ms. Lehman continues to have the support of one such group. The other group brought this injunctive action,” Strauss added.

In his opposition to petition for intervention, Joaquin said that FACGC enjoys tax exemption benefit from the Internal Revenue Service and was able to register with the Office of the Attorney General as a Charitable Organization. However, due to annual report deficiencies, the said registration was cancelled.

The FACGC also sponsored, for several years, different programs or projects beneficial to the Filipino American community. However, due to lack of funds, not all of said programs or projects materialized.

GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION

With this predicament, FACGC started looking for someone who may be able to suggest or recommend solutions to its financial projects beneficial to the Filipino American community.

Lehman, who is not member of FACGC and virtually unknown in the Filipino American community, was introduced to the FACGC board. Apparently, she made a “first impression as heaven sent” who could solve what ails the FACGC.

The FACGC board appointed Lehman as Executive Director without putting her under probation and sufficient vetting of her personal and professional background. They thought she was “very articulate, convincing, persuasive individual who claimed she could obtain “grants” for the organization.

But on the same day of her appointment on January 27, 2017 as Executive Director, according to the complaint, “Lehman improperly and unjustifiably began to purge the Board of Trustees by first terminating six (6) members of the Board.”

FACGC claimed this act was in violation of FACGC’s constitution. Lehman “also shortened the terms of office of the members of the FACGC Board”.

In addition, the complaint said that Lehman created her own Board and drew up a new “FACC” Constitution in lieu of the Constitution adopted and approved on May 20, 2016. Lehman’s action was without the consent and approval of the Board of Trustees that appointed her. She also did not follow the proper procedure in revising and amending the Constitution.

UNLAWFUL ACTS

By the first week of February 2017, Lehman began, without notice and without the approval of the Board, to unlawfully and unjustifiably make physical changes at RHC, such as among others.

  • Changing the locks of the entrance door;
  • Posting a sign at the entrance door, which reads: “CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE;”
  • Removing the historic portraits of past presidents of FACC;
  • Barring anyone, including the members of the Board, from entering the Building;
  • Decimated the library;
  • Defacing RHC by removing the signage, which reads, “Filipino-American Council of Greater Chicago.”

Lehman also evicted FACC’s two tenants – Alfonso S. Bacos and the Alliance of Filipino Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), without sufficient advanced notice and without authority, and knowledge and approval of the Board. To make sure that she has full control of the FACC, Lehman was the only one holding the keys and no one could enter the building.

Joaquin told the court if Lehman will not be restrained, “the plaintiff may not be able to recover any damages from defendant since she has no assets and is unemployed.”

From her designation as Executive Director, she also added a title to her name, “Resident Manager,” so she can occupy rent-free one of the rooms of the RHC and converted it into a living space for herself and her husband, Ari Lehman.

Neither Lehman nor Strauss issued any statement to this reporter when reached for comment on the denial of their petition to intervene.

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