Charity’s solicitors say former trustee has only himself to blame for legal battle that could bankrupt him
CHARITY worker Geoff Fowler is facing the threat of bankruptcy and the possible break-up of a Kenyan children’s charity following a bitter, four-year legal battle with March-based FACET.
Mr Fowler, 67, is a former trustee of Fenland Area Community Enterprise Trust in Marwick Road which also took on a role helping to secure funding for a �1.85million new training centre for people with learning disabilities: the plans sunk without trace after backers withdrew.
Mr Fowler, who joined FACET in 2002 at its launch, still expected to get paid �13,000 but the charity refused and county court judgements ruled in the charity’s favour.
The crux of the charity’s argument was that Mr Fowler had not been properly authorised to do the work – a fact he’s always contended. The court battle has left him nursing FACET’s �14,000 legal costs.
FACET’s solicitors, Bowser Ollard and Bentley, says it has “defended a false claim successfully and the trustees have complied with their obligations and their reputations are intact”.
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The solicitors are now days away from forcing Mr Fowler into bankruptcy to reclaim the costs.
A spokesman for Bowser Ollard and Bentley said: “It is not for us to say what Mr Fowler should do, but we are bound to wonder why he has left it until now to consider raising the money to pay the costs when he lost the case in 2009.
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“Of course, if he had paid the costs when settlement was agreed last year, then he would have saved a large amount of additional costs being incurred.
“Mr Fowler has throughout this process simply chosen to put his charity over the needs of another charity. This is a position which cannot be acceptable.”
E-mails sent to Mr Fowler say FACET is entitled “to what they are owed and if you are not prepared to pay the debt then FACET has nothing further to add”.
The legal quagmire is a long way from the day Mr Fowler was asked to join FACET as a trustee, based mainly on his work elsewhere and expertise in preparing bids for charitable funding.
He helped secure funding for FACET’S proposed new building but when it refused to pay him he sued. After winning the first hearing the case was thrown out at all subsequent hearings.
Now he must decide to try and raise the money or risk losing his home - and jeopardise a children’s charity run by himself and his wife in Kenya.
He said: “One hundred and fifty children go to a Kenyan school because of our work and they, along with 12 members of staff, are at risk.”
The Bowser Ollard and Bentley spokesman added: “It was Mr Fowler’s decision to take the matters through the courts. He had legal representation at the outset and he would have been advised that in taking any court proceedings forward, if he was unsuccessful, he would have to pay the legal costs incurred by FACET.
“This is a fact which was also pointed out to Mr Fowler at numerous points throughout the litigation process. Mr Fowler however chose to continue, even though he was aware that as he had been a trustee of FACET, he could not be paid for any work he had done and that in taking FACET to court he was potentially putting the charity at risk of becoming insolvent.”
The spokesman added: “FACET had no alternative but to return to the courts where Mr Fowler admitted that he owed the costs and that he had not paid them anything.
“Mr Fowler failed to comply with the court’s instalment order and instead started a further appeal which was unsuccessful. These actions have only served to increase costs.”