Probate Court Hearing, January 30, 2012

The three motions filed by the parent interveners will be heard on the morning of January 30th, 2012 at the Essex County Probate Court in Salem.  The hearing is scheduled at 8:30AM, although we are told it is unlikely to be on time.

There is no particular need for a large turnout, but the hearing is open to the public and if you are interested to hear the arguments in person it would be worth making the trip.  The courthouse is convenient to the train station in Salem.

Memo Supporting Motion to Intervene and Supplemental Affidavits

The first document is the legal argument for why we believe we have the right to intervene in this case.

The last link (CBRE Report) is an expert opinion stating that it is not only feasible but also desirable to lease Little Neck, and therefore illegal to break the will.  Although huge amounts of the schoolchildren’s money has been expended on appraisals and analysis of how one would go about breaking the will and selling the land, as far as we know this is the first analysis anyone has commissioned on how one would go about upholding the will and keeping the land.

Probate – Interveners – 120126 – Memo Supporting Motion to Intervene

Probate – Interveners – 120126 – Supplemental Ziegler Affidavit

Probate – Interveners – 120126 – Collins Affidavit

Probate – Interveners – 120126 – CBRE Report

CB Richard Ellis Consulting Report

This is the expert report we commissioned to analyze all four appraisals and make recommendations on the path forward.  One particularly interesting element is the discussion of Naushon Island in Buzzards Bay.  This is an example of another valuable piece of land which was placed in a perpetual trust and is being rented and managed professionally.

Probate – Interveners – 120126 – CBRE Report

Feoffees Opposition to Motion to Stay and Motion to Report

Probate – Feoffees – 120126 – Opposition to Motion to Stay and Motion to Report

There is actually a wealth of interesting information in the document below, including many financial statements for the Feoffees we had never seen before.

Probate – Feoffees – 120126 – Supporting Materials to Opposition

Probate – Feoffees – 120126 – Motion to Strike Affidavits 2

School Committee Opposition of Motion to Report and Motion to Stay

Your tax dollars at work.  The School Committee must have some extra money floating around outside of the funds approved by Town Meeting and restricted by the Selectmen.  This is a duplication of the Feoffees’ effort, since they have already opposed these motions.

Probate – SC – 120126 – Opposition of Motion to Stay Entry of Judgment

Probate – SC – 120126 – Opposition of Motion to Report

Tri-Board Meeting Report

Tonight’s Tri-Board meeting to discuss the Trust Administration Order was three hours of minutiae punctuated by a half hour of substantive discussion on the spending policy.  In particular, the italicized phrase in the sentence below:

“The educational uses of the distributed funds shall be determined by the Ipswich School Committee, with preference when feasible for supplemental enrichment programs and uses that provide educational enhancement for Ipswich public school students.”

There was a surprisingly large variety of opinions among members of the three boards as to what was appropriate.  The range went from a suggestion that the School Committee should not, in any way, restrict the potential uses of the funds in the Trust document to suggestions that there should be no leeway for the funds to be used for anything but enhancement and that this could be best enforced by Trustees that are sufficiently independent of the School Committee, possibly through a granting structure as had been discussed in earlier versions of this document.  There was much discussion, but in the end it was up to the 5 members of the School Committee in attendance.  Rachel Roesler moved to strike “with preference when feasible” and this motion failed by a vote of 3-2 (with Jen Bauman joining in the affirmative).  Then Barry moved to strike only “when feasible” and this motion passed 3-2 (with Jeff Loeb and Laura Dietz joining in the affirmative).  It was not clear at the time why those in the affirmative thought that removing only this part of the text would have any substantive effect in practice, since “with preference” and “when feasible” seem to be duplicative.

It would appear that there is no clear consensus on this issue among the three boards, and since we are confident that this trust document is not going to be implemented anyway due to the intervention, there may yet be opportunities to revisit the question with a broader constituency participating.

So while the outcome was not what we had hoped for, we did get one critical thing that we were denied in the decision to sell Little Neck: a public airing of the question, with the cameras rolling, and where members of the boards could be held accountable to the statements made in the meeting.

Tri-Board Meeting, January 24, 2011

7:30 in the Selectman’s Meeting Room in Town Hall.  Agenda here.

The School Committee, Selectmen and FinCom will discuss the proposed Trust Administration Order that the court required be revised as part of the agreement for judgment.

Points of interest compared to previous versions of this document are:

* A new policy requiring reinvestment means it will be more difficult to diminish the principal over time (good) , but also reduces the amount that the Feoffees will be able to distribute each year.  Given this change, the School Committee should present their analysis of how much they anticipate the Trust distributing in future years, and how this compares to the additional costs that the school system would have as a result of students from the new year-round residences so that we can see whether there is any money left for “enhancements”.

* The trust document doesn’t give the new trustees any say over the usage of the so-called “additional” $3M of back rent that distinguishes this deal from the original $29.1M deal that the School Committee has opposed for over a year.  This money is committed to be spent “off the top” and is not included in the calculation of the principal of the Trust fund for future generations.

* The primary concern that remains with this document is that it leaves too much control in the hands of School Committee, and only requires funds to be used for enhancement “when feasible” (see Section 3).  Our vision of the way this Trust should work – whether based on cash or land – is more like a foundation that makes grants based on the merits of an application for funds.  Earlier versions of this document hewed closer to this line.  As written, it will be much too easy for these funds to just be absorbed into the school budget over time.

Even though we do not believe this document will ever be put into practice, since the settlement will not go through, this is an important discussion to participate in.  The basic tenets of how the future Feoffees will operate and how funds are distributed are the same whether the asset is land or dollars.

Welcome

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This site is dedicated to making public as much information as possible about the attempt by the trustees (Feoffees) of the oldest charitable trust in the United States (the 1660 Grammar School Trust in Ipswich, Massachusetts) to sell Little Neck, the only remaining asset, in contravention of the will of its donor, William Payne.

Read, explore, ask questions and make up your own mind.  If you or someone you know can help us, let us know.  You can have updates sent to your email by clicking the “follow” button to the right.

"Knowledge is power." - Sir Francis Bacon
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beginning of wisdom." - Adlai Stevenson
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- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
"Plate sin with gold, And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks"
- William Shakespeare