A secretive legal battle is under way for control of Feed The Children, a sometimes controversial Oklahoma City-based charity. Both sides say they are the true Feed The Children. The organization is known nationwide in large part because of founder Larry Jones’ emotional televised appeals for donations. It reported gross receipts of almost $1 billion in fiscal year 2007, mostly in "in-kind gifts.” Five directors allege in a lawsuit they were unlawfully replaced in December on the board that oversees Feed The Children. They ask an Oklahoma County judge to rule they are still the valid directors. They want the judge to throw out the new directors and invalidate all actions taken since Dec. 4 "by the alleged board.” Judge Patricia Parrish scheduled a hearing for noon Monday. The new directors are Christian ministers from across the country. What is behind the dispute has not been disclosed. Three of the released directors and their attorney, Jack Dawson, declined comment. On the other side, in a short statement approved by Jones, attorney Leif Swedlow said the former directors are using the charity’s name without permission and the lawsuit is unauthorized. "The suit attempts to dispute the election of five prominent pastors to Feed The Children’s board of directors. Feed The Children believes that the claims have no merit,” the statement concluded. The lawsuit is sealed from public view. The Oklahoman obtained a copy of the petition before it was made secret.
The allegationsAccording to the lawsuit, on Dec. 4, Feed The Children had eight directors including Jones. Jones and board chairman Dwight Powers put five new directors on the board in violation of Feed The Children’s bylaws, according to the lawsuit. Six directors who had been on the board for years then were sent dismissal letters Dec. 5 stating they had been released. Five of the released directors sued Jan. 30, saying they are "the true board” and their dismissals were improper. Critics of Feed The Children include the American Institute of Philanthropy. The watchdog group grades charities and has in the past given Feed The Children an F.
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