Saturday, February 23, 2002

Judge suggests Dater settlement

Foundation, widow still at odds

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The legal battle over one of Cincinnati's largest charitable foundations has gone on long enough, a judge said Friday.

        Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Helmick urged the two sides fighting over the Charles H. Dater Foundation to settle their differences before the case is scheduled to go to trial later this year.

        The judge said a settlement would allow the foundation to focus on helping charities instead of arguing about the five-year-old court case.

        “The purpose is to benefit the charities,” Judge Helmick said.

        The dispute over Mr. Dater's fortune has been raging since his widow, Ann, sued in 1997 over the way her husband's $100 million was divided between the foundation and family trusts.

        Mrs. Dater claimed her husband's lawyers and brokers conspired to take control of his assets by putting the money into the foundation, which they oversee as its directors.

        While both sides have argued they are fighting over principles, Judge Helmick said the real issue is money.

        Mrs. Dater is contesting the transfer of money from her family trusts to the foundation, and the foundation directors are fighting to protect their assets.

        Since Mr. Dater's death in 1993, the foundation has donated millions to hospitals, youth groups and other charities throughout Greater Cincinnati.

        Mrs. Dater's lawyer, Quintin Lindsmith, contends the foundation directors took advantage of Mr. Dater's declining health in the years before his death by having him sign over control of his fortune to them.

        In her lawsuit, Mrs. Dater claimed her husband was not mentally competent when he was signing many important documents. She accuses them of awarding themselves large fees and lifetime appointments as paid directors of the foundation.

        But the directors have said they were only carrying out Mr. Dater's last wish: to set up a large charitable foundation.

        After a court hearing Friday, Judge Helmick refused a request by the directors to throw out Mrs. Dater's lawsuit. Instead, he will allow the case to go to trial.


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