Executrix of Gordon estate must repay funds

By David Hedges, Publisher

The woman handling the multi-million dollar estate of the last survivor of a prominent Spencer family has been ordered to appear in court to explain over $200,000 in missing funds.

Joyce Conrad is executrix of the estate of Hazeldeane Gordon, who died in July 2005.

According to court records, the bulk of Gordon's estate, appraised at more than $2.5 million, was to go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Another $50,000 was set aside to care for family burial plots in Spencer Memorial Cemetery, including hers and that of her father, the late Dr. A.T. Gordon, a well-known physician who operated a hospital in Spencer for years.

Gordon also set aside some money to pay for the care of her cat, Patches.

Last week, Roane Circuit Judge Tom Evans ordered Conrad to show why she should not be held in contempt for failing to return money she paid to herself out of the estate.

The details of the case were outlined in an order prepared by Spencer attorney Anita Ashley. The order was entered last week by Evans, who has ordered Conrad to appear before him next week.

Ashley represents former Roane County Clerk Loretta Knapp, appointed by the Roane County Commission to replace Spencer attorney Drew Patton after he stepped down as fiduciary commissioner for the estate in March of this year.

Three days after her appointment, Knapp asked Conrad for written annual accountings of the estate, which Knapp found had never been filed.

Knapp had an appointment to meet with Conrad April 9, but Conrad's attorney, Larry L. Skeen, cancelled the meeting.

Although no accounting of the estate was filed, the court order says a general ledger for a period of six months after Gordon's death indicated Conrad paid herself over $52,000 in commissions that had not been approved by the Roane County Commission.

In July of this year, nearly two years after Gordon's death, Knapp made a request for an accounting of the estate.

Knapp also made two trips to Skeen's office to obtain copies of the general ledger that the order says showed "questionable expenditures."

In reviewing the documents, Knapp discovered that Conrad was writing checks to pay commissions to herself.

From August 2005 to March of this year, Conrad received checks totaling $300,000, the court document says. Knapp said the proper commission should have been $97,721.61.

In September, the Roane County Commission ordered Conrad to repay the estate $208,468.13 and set a deadline of Oct. 22. No payment was made, but on that date Skeen asked for a closed meeting with the county commission. His request was denied.

The following day, Conrad filed a motion asking the commission to delay any action.

At a meeting on Oct. 23, the county commission refused Conrad's request for a delay. The commission instead authorized Knapp to take the matter to circuit court.

The document filed by Ashley said Conrad has indicated she wants to repay the estate, but does not have the funds. Conrad has put her farm up for sale to come up with the money.

Evans has ordered Conrad to appear before him at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for failing to repay the estate.