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Litchfield Plantation: Judge orders attorney to turn over company records

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A Circuit Court judge has ordered the former attorney for Litchfield Plantation Co. to turn over documents he prepared for the former developer to the new owner of the development, but only after reviewing confidential sale documents.

Judge Larry Hyman is scheduled to hear a plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgement next week in a suit brought by five Litchfield Plantation property owners that asks the court to declare that they are the legitimate board members for the property owners association. They filed the suit after a meeting in February that ousted E. Scott Trotter, who was then head of the development company, as head of the property owners association.

At stake is control over assessments collected by property owners to maintain the common elements, and the amount of funds that the development company must pay for its share of the upkeep.

In April, the undeveloped portions of Litchfield Plantation were sold by Louise Parsons, who had owned the property since the 1960s, to John Miller, a DeBordieu resident. Trotter, who arranged a buyout deal with Parsons in 2006, was removed as president of Litchfield Plantation Co. He had sought a buyer for the development for over a year, according to court records.

Miller’s attorney, Mark Neill, asked for company and property owners association records, but was rebuffed by Charles Nation, attorney for Trotter. Neill sought to subpoena the records.

Nation argued that he needed proof that Parsons had actually sold her interest, and even then, he wrote in a motion to quash the subpoena, the documents “contain sensitive information concerning financial assets owned by E. Scott Trotter.”

Nation also said Litchfield Plantation Co. “owes substantial sums of money for the information” and that a new owner wouldn’t be entitled to it unless he was paid.

In an order filed last week, Nation was given until Aug. 17 to turn over all the documents in spite of Trotter’s objections.

Hyman met with the parties at a conference in his chambers in July. Neill said Parsons and Miller wanted the terms of the sale to remain confidential, but he agreed to let Hyman review the purchase agreement and closing documents. Hyman determined that Miller “now owns the majority interest in the Litchfield Plantation Co.”

The documents Trotter sought to withhold “rightfully belong in the possession of Litchfield Plantation Co. Inc. and are certainly relevant to this litigation,” Hyman said.

Trotter has disputed the property owners’ claim that they are the valid association board. He was arrested in July on a charge of “grand larceny” after the board members filed a complaint with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office that Trotter assigned to his own Litchfield Plantation Buyout Group promissory notes and mortgages that represent over $2.1 million in loans payable to the association.

Although the suit is between the property owners and the Litchfield Plantation Co., Trotter has filed a motion to intervene in the case. He says the meeting at which he was voted out as association president was invalid. Among other things, the ballot was “worded and framed to deny and prevent any votes to be cast to keep Trotter on the board,” according to his motion.

The property owners – Joseph E. Johnston, Thomas Eckard, Carol E. Kirby, Robert F. McMahan Jr. and Thomas M. Phillips – said the vote followed the association bylaws.

The company, they say, failed to pay an assessment or fund a shortfall in the maintenance budget.

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