Judge lifts Council on Aging director's restraining order against client's family
BATON ROUGE - A judge has lifted a restraining order filed by the director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging against the family of one of her clients.
Judge Tarvald Smith said there was no evidence that the Plummer family was a threat to Tasha Clark Amar at her place of work or at home. Smith also noted that the restraining order that was filed mirrors the defamation lawsuit Clark Amar filed against them.
In court records obtained by the WBRZ News 2 Investigative Unit, Tasha Clark Amar claimed Helen Plummer's family defamed her in a series of news reports and at a luncheon where they spoke to a crowd. The lawsuit states Clark Amar has been suffering from mental anguish, distress, medical and pharmaceutical expenses, inconvenience, fear and fright, embarrassment, humiliation, aggravation, loss of ability to participate in normal activities, emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of reputation, and loss of earning capacity.
Judge Tarvald Smith lifted the restraining order in court Wednesday morning. Smith said the case needs to be heard in the 19th Judicial District Court, not city court.
Clark Amar did not appear at the hearing. Clark Amar's mom, Judge Janice Clark is assigned the case. She had not recused herself as of late Wednesday afternoon.
"People are now sending her hate mail," Clark Amar's attorney, Charlotte McGehee said. "I've gotten mail personally, trying to defend this lady in her personal capacity when she was only trying to help someone."
Clark Amar was named as the overseer of Helen Plummer's estate last July. Plummer's will stated Clark Amar was to pay herself $500 per month for the next 20 years. She stood to gain over $120,000 until the Investigative Unit exposed the questionable way this was done. The family said Clark Amar never told them a thing.
Following WBRZ reports, Clark Amar stepped off of Plummer's will.
The will was drafted by Dorothy Jackson, a Council on Aging Board Member and employee at Southern University's Elder Law Clinic. The university has since suspended Jackson over the way this will was handled. Chairman of the Council on Aging Board, Brandon Dumas, resigned after a WBRZ Investigative Unit report showed he was not living in East Baton Rouge, a requirement of serving on the board.
In an original lawsuit, Clark Amar and Dorothy Jackson took Plummer's family to court, trying to put the succession into motion.
About the new lawsuit, legal scholars at LSU said they aren't impressed with the defamation lawsuit and said the public shouldn't be fooled. They believe the lawsuit was filed to intimidate Plummer's family and stop them from talking about Clark Amar.
"Many people file defamation suits to basically get other people to shut up and go away," LSU Law Professor Ken Levy said. "There's no more polite way to say it. It's an intimidation tactic. 'Stop talking about me or I'll sue' is the threat, they'll go ahead and sue."
Clark Amar's attorney Charlotte McDaniel McGehee said her client's reputation has been damaged with everything the Plummer family has said.
"The parties to this lawsuit have made several misstatements to where Ms. Clark Amar was when she was making these decisions," McGehee said. "She was asked by a friend to administer her estate after her passing. From that point on there has been continuation of attacking her."
A temporary restraining order was also filed against the Plummer family to prevent them from talking about the allegations involving Clark Amar.
McGehee said Clark Amar is paying her out of her own personal accounts and is not using Council on Aging money to sue the family.
This week the State Legislative Auditor released a scathing report showing the Council on Aging may have violated numerous laws with the way it supported a Political Action Committee in last year's election. The auditor noted purchases that did not have good documentation and thousands of dollars worth of charges that the organization avoided paying sales taxes on. All of this happened under Clark Amar's watch.
When asked whether Clark Amar would step down, McGehee said, "No, why would she? She does a great job."