Disputed will in Council on Aging scandal settled, but controversy continues
The deceased woman whose will was at the center of a controversy that embroiled the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging for much of 2017 has been settled.
Court documents filed Tuesday in 19th Judicial District Court by the court appointed executor of the estate, attorney David Koch, show the heirs of Helen Plummer have agreed to settle her $650,000 estate after a nearly year-long battle.
Under the terms of the settlement, Plummer’s two great-grandchildren and grandniece have agreed to split the proceeds of her assets with Plummer’s daughter, Jacqueline Antoine.
Though family squabbles over successions don’t typically make headlines, Plummer’s case generated intense public interest because officials with the COA—which was already under fire for its role in passing a controversial dedicated tax—were involved in drafting the will and, initially at least, stood to benefit from it.
Plummer, who died last March, was a client of the COA in July 2016 when she signed a will at the Southern University Elder Law Clinic that named the head of the of the COA, Tasha Clark-Amar, as executor and trustee of her estate, a service for which she would have been paid $500 per month for 20 years.
What’s more, the will was prepared by Dorothy Jackson, who at the time was a COA Board member and executive director of the Elder Law Clinic. She has since resigned from the COA board and been fired over the incident by Southern University, which she is appealing.
Antoine and Plummer’s grandchildren, Tracie Davis and Dan Freeman, brought the matter to light, challenging the will and alleging that Plummer was strong-armed by Clark-Amar and Jackson into drafting the document.
Clark-Amar and Jackson later removed themselves from the succession plan. By then, however, the matter had erupted into a full blown scandal that further escalated when Clark-Amar sued Plummer’s heirs for defamation.
While the succession settlement ends the dispute over the will, it doesn’t end Clark-Amar’s defamation suit nor a separate suit filed by Antoine against Clark-Amar.
Also still unresolved are two investigations into the matter. The Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Council, which regulates attorney misconduct, is looking into Jackson’s involvement, though it has not issued any statement and declines to comment.
The Office of Inspector General has also been investigating the matter for several months and has reportedly issued several subpoenas related to Clark-Amar’s and Jackson’s involvement in drafting the will. Inspector General Stephen Street declines to comment.
“I’m glad the family has settled,” says LSU Law School Professor Elizabeth Clark, who specializes in successions and has been following the case. “But the fallout isn’t done. It’s going to continue for quite a while.”