Newly elected Fresno County Sportsmen's Club president Steve Starcher and his board appear to have won the first round of a bitter court battle to determine who is in charge of the club's finances.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge Donald S. Black on Friday granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the club's longtime leader Douglas Bowman and treasurer Pearl Morgan from interfering with its management.
The club, founded in 1916, is on 13 acres along the San Joaquin River near Woodward Park.
At the next court hearing on April 10, lawyers for Bowman and Morgan will try to make a case for lifting the temporary restraining order.
Ian Wieland, attorney for Starcher's group, is happy with Black's ruling.
"We got everything we asked for, which includes: Bowman and Morgan cannot purport to act as directors of the club, cannot possess club property and cannot interfere with the day-to-day operations of the club and management of the club," Wieland said, adding that they also are barred from interfering with events and activities held at the club.
Attorney Lenden Webb, who represents Bowman and Morgan, said they are "comfortable" with the order, which requires both parties to remain "at peace and that status quo be maintained."
"Thursday's emergency hearing was based on papers that were not personally served and were allegedly dropped off the evening before the hearing," Webb said. "While my clients have the right to go to the property, I would encourage all parties to stay away from each other until things can be examined carefully with Judge Black on April 10."
At Thursday's hearing, Webb argued that Starcher previously was expelled from the club, and therefore did not have the authority to call a special meeting March 18 at which club members voted to oust Bowman and his board and installed Starcher and his board as new leaders.
The special meeting also didn't have enough members on hand to meet the quorum requirement, so the vote to oust Bowman was improper, Webb said.
But Wieland said that while it's unclear how many members are now in the club, the quorum requirement was met to call the special meeting.
Since the March 18 vote, he said, Bowman has threatened violence against Starcher and his followers.
Bowman is accused of engaging in mismanagement, allowing embezzlement of the club's funds and sexually harassing a female club member, Wieland added.
Club members also are upset Bowman and his board changed the club's bylaws in 2012 so members no longer would be able to vote for leaders, Wieland said.
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