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Jeb Bladine: A local case for the Ghostbusters

If there ever is a Ghostbusters IV movie, perhaps producers could commandeer the Evergreen Museum campus and cast out any remaining spirits of mischief.

For five years, the words “Evergreen” and “bankruptcy” have been inseparable companions: First, Evergreen International Airlines, followed by Evergreen Vintage Aircraft and the Michael King Smith Foundation. This year the curse continues with bankruptcy of Utah-based The Falls Event Center, LLC and its local subsidiary, buyers of Evergreen properties from a previous bankruptcy.

There have been enough financial and legal battles in civil, tax and bankruptcy courts to fill a multi-volume encyclopedia. That serpentine history of rotating conflicts and settlements is chronicled in the archives of our news stories and commentaries.

The two-month-old TFEC bankruptcy is a Chapter 11 case seeking protection from creditors while the company reorganizes. In reality, it’s much more.

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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U.S. Trustee Patrick S. Layng intervened, seeking the unusual appointment of a Chapter 11 trustee to oversee the reorganization. Layng said TFEC Principal Steve Down and his appointees should be disqualified due to previous charges of fraud against Down by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Down had engaged turnaround expert Brooks Pickering, who quickly saw that imploding TFEC finances required aggressive action. Pickering replaced Down, filed for Chapter 11 protection, and continues as manager of the financial mess involving companies and operations in multiple states. He engaged Gil Miller as chief reorganization adviser.

Layng’s motion, opposed by TFEC creditors, languished. But he didn’t give up. On Aug. 29 Layng moved to dismiss the entire case, claiming Pickering lacked authority under company policies to file bankruptcy without participation by investors. Two days earlier, knowing Layng’s intentions, Pickering asked the court confirm his authority for filing the case.

That legal battle awaits court order. Meanwhile, Miller filed a document saying TFEC has causes of action against Down and three close associates for fraud, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.

Through it all, Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum remains an operating tenant of the sprawling campus. The museum could fill its own encyclopedia volume with complex legal activities.

One ardent local critic of the museum, hoping to append that volume, published this claim: “Due to the EASM Board’s participation in the fraud and failure to do their fiduciary duties as board members, it is appearing more and more likely locally that the museum will be forced to close in the next few months.”

Ghostbusters IV, where are you?

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223

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