-GTA Attorney Fights To Keep Letter From Public Disclosure; Also Represents "Witnesses" Heidi Weber, Lesley Werth and Mark Noss
Kerry L. Morgan, an attorney representing the Grand Traverse Academy, is battling to keep a May 30, 2013 letter from Grand Rapids attorney Margaret M. Hackett to the Academy board from being admitted into evidence during Steven Ingersoll’s federal fraud trial.
The disputed letter was among information disclosed to government prosecutors by Traverse City CPA firm Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth, and has not been made public.
In its February 9 witness-related notice (just made public), the government stated that the letter, originally sent to the attention of former Academy board president and current management company head Mark Noss by Hackett (whose practice specialties at the Thrun Law Firm, P.C. include charter school law), would be authenticated by Heidi Wendel, a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner at Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth, during her testimony.
Although Morgan filed his response to the government’s notice on February 11, the document itself was just made public.
The government’s notice anticipated that Wendel would “testify about her forensic review of the Grand Traverse Academy’s finances, and about accounting practices for public school academies.”
In addition to Wendel’s knowledge of accounting principles, Michigan law, her familiarity with the funding practices of charter schools, and financial records and bank records of the Grand Traverse Academy, the government anticipated that “Ms. Wendel will authenticate a letter, dated May 30, 2013, from Meg Hackett to the Board of Directors, Grand Traverse Academy.”
In his February 11 response, Academy attorney Morgan states that on or about February 6, 2015, he “advised Mary Krantz of DGN that the letter of May 30, 2013 is privileged and remains privileged since no GTA Board waiver of the privilege exists. Thus, without regard to what else may be produced by DGN, GTA’s position is the letter ought not be produced to the government.” (It's unclear just when Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth provided the government with its Grand Traverse Academy-related discovery documents.)
Morgan says that Hackett’s May 30, 2013 letter “further states on page 15 that the document constitutes a privileged attorney-client communication to remain confidential among the members of the Board of Directors” and should not be admitted into evidence. Saying that the disclosure by DGN “does not operate as a waiver in this proceeding because the disclosure was inadvertent”, and GTA as the holder of the privilege, “took reasonable steps to prevent the disclosure by notifying Mary Krantz that it (sic) should not disclose said document.”
That must be some damn letter!
In its 2013 audit, the Grand Traverse Academy revealed that a $3.5 million dollar 2012 “related party receivable” had been reclassified as a “prepaid expense” and had shrunk to $2.3 million dollars.
I suspect that information in Hackett's May 30, 2013, which has not been made public...yet, may have been the catalyst for Doug Bishop's June 13, 2013 “demand letter” to Steven Ingersoll, shown at left.
And on another note, Kerry Morgan filed an appearance notice with the court on February 18 revealing that he will be representing witnesses Heidi Weber, Lesley Werth and Mark Noss.
Weber works in the Grand Traverse Academy's business office and Werth is the former Academy board treasurer.
Unless you work for the Traverse City Record-Eagle, you don't need to ask.
Miss Fortune will bring you Judge Thomas L. Ludington's decision as soon as it's available, although courts have consistently ruled that even the smallest slip-up or mistake that lets any piece of privileged data go to opposing counsel means attorney-client privilege is waived.