Judge leaves door open
Final order resolved
PRINCE GEORGE — A brief hearing in Prince George Friday settled a dispute over the court’s final order in a lawsuit brought by the limited liability company that oversees Hopewell’s Beacon Theatre against the John Randolph Foundation but left the door open for future proceedings.
Judge W. Allan Sharrett, presiding over Hopewell Circuit Court from the Prince George courtroom, gave the John Randolph Foundation seven days to submit a response to the Beacon LLC’s motion
to reconsider the case concerning an almost $1 million bequest from Ursula M. Gibbs to the foundation “for the benefit of the Beacon Theater.”
Sharrett also stated that he will provide a ruling within 30 days as to whether he will hold a hearing on reconsideration of the case.
The dispute, which has lasted more than two years, concerns the question of who should have authority over the disposal of Gibbs’ bequest. The Beacon LLC, which brought the initial lawsuit, has argued that the John Randolph Foundation illegally created an endowment for the Gibbs funds and is willfully withholding the bequest from the theater, which has not received any monies from the foundation since the 2014 settlement of the estate.
The foundation in turn has contended that it did have the right under Virginia law to create an endowment for the funds and that the Beacon LLC must follow its endowment procedures, which involve the submission of a concept paper justifying its proposed use of annual interest payments.
This past January, Sharrett ruled in favor of the foundation, declaring that “the Foundation has not committed any judicially cognizable abuse of discretion regarding the use of the Theatre funds” and that it “is acting within the limits of its discretion.”
However, the two sides continued to quarrel over the wording of the final order. The Beacon LLC sought an explicit statement of the John Randolph Foundation’s duty to use the funds to benefit the Beacon Theatre, with attorney William Sleeth arguing in court May 12 that the lack of such a statement could cause legal difficulties down the line.
In return, foundation attorney Michael Shebelskie maintained that the Beacon’s wording sought to “subtly … rewrite the terms of the will” by specifying that the funds be used for the benefit of the “plaintiff” — the LLC that currently controls the theater — rather than the theater itself.
On Friday, Sharrett again ruled in favor of the foundation, saying, “Implicit in the law is the John Randolph Foundation’s duty to use these funds in accordance with the law.”
The judge will now determine whether the motion for reconsideration should move forward. —Sarah Vogelsong may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-722-5154.