Suit over Bald Knob Cross of Peace settled

Friday, December 26, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
The Rev. Bill Vandergraph discussed the deterioration of the Cross of Peace on Bald Knob near Alto Pass, Ill. in April. Earlier this week, litigation between members of the cross' foundation settled their disagreements.

ALTO PASS, Ill. -- Those concerned with the future of Bald Knob Cross of Peace received a gift just in time for Christmas.

Settlement of two years of litigation involving board members of the cross foundation was announced shortly before 3 p.m. Wednesday. The court document was filed in the Union County circuit clerk's office Wednesday.

Wes Wilkins, who represented former board member Tirzah Tweedy in the lawsuit, announced the settlement. His statement praised the "great Christmas present for all of Southern Illinois."

The conflict had erupted over loans Tweedy had secured for work on the welcome center at the cross. The disagreement escalated "until the board became deadlocked and divided into two separate groups," one composed of the most senior board members who supported Tweedy, the other of those who supported board president Steve Babb, Wilkins said in a news release.

"This case is now over," Wilkins said.

Whitney, who represented Babb and the newer board members, credited Wilkins for working with him to reach a settlement.

"Everyone is mutually pleased that we were able to resolve this," he said. "Both attorneys worked very hard to make this happen." It was difficult, he said, because all parties were standing on matters of principle.

"Our main focus now is to look to the future of the cross," attorney Richard J. Whitney said. "We look forward to saving, restoring and improving the cross."

The settlement calls for Tweedy to acknowledge that the debt was hers alone, without legal obligation by the cross board, for the Bald Knob Cross of Peace Corp. to improve its record-keeping and auditing procedures, and establishes a seven-member transitional board of directors to serve until February 2011.

All current board members agreed to resign from the board. As part of the settlement, they may continue as members but cannot stand for nomination to either the transitional or regular board of directors of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace Corp. for 20 years.

Each of the 18 current board members signed a resignation form agreeing to the settlement.

Members of the transitional board are the Rev. Mark Roath, pastor of Anna Heights Baptist Church in Anna, Ill.; Dr. Ralph Brandon, senior pastor of Covenant Christian Fellowship in Carterville, Ill.; the Rev. Gerald Wright, senior pastor of Spirit of Life Christian Church in Du Quoin, Ill.; the Rev. Steven M. McKeown, senior pastor of Christian Life Center in Herrin, Ill.; the Rev. Doug Cherry, senior pastor of Victory Christian Center of Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill.; Jon Musgrave, executive director of the Southern Illinois Tourism Development Office and member of Second Baptist Church in Marion, Ill.; and Bradley Rogers of Buncombe, Ill., president of the Christian Motorcycle Association.

The court will continue to enforce the agreement, the settlement notes.

The settlement also calls upon the community to "demonstrate the love and forgiveness of Christ by ending any further personal attacks or public criticism of those involved in this litigation."

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