Lawsuit filed against former Lon Morris college president, board members

Lawsuit filed against former Lon Morris college president, board members

JACKSONVILLE (KYTX) -  The lawsuit filed on August 29th on behalf of the now defunct Lon Morris College opens up with this line:

"Lon Morris was the oldest existing two year college in Texas. Lon Morris survived two world wars and the great depression. But, Lon Morris could not survive Dr. Miles McCall."

The lawsuit says it was his gross negligence and financially devastating actions on the 158-year-old private methodist college that caused it to go bankrupt.

"We've had salary freezes, not been able to give raises this year," said Dr. Miles McCall in a 2008 interview.

It was five years ago when we sat down with Dr. Miles McCall for an interview about the state of Lon Morris College.

Attendance was down 3 percent, leaving 350 students on campus.

The college had renegotiated contracts , combined faculty positions, and halted projects to save money .

"Every decision we make ultimately goes back, how's this going to affect the students?" said Dr.McCall.

According to this lawsuit, it was allegedly McCall's business plan concerning students that played a part in the private methodist college's downfall.

In the lawsuit, McCall is accused of failing to collect approximately $1 million in tuition from students.

The lawsuit says McCall's plan to expand the student population caused the school substantial debt and new expenses the college would never be able to pay.

The lawsuit claims the addition of a football program, is one example, of a bad idea that put the school in debt.

"This college has been here almost 160 years and it's struggled probably all those years," said Tommy Ferguson, Former Lon Morris vice president in a 2011 interview.

It was three years later when we sat down with Vice President of Business and Administrative Affairs Tommy Ferguson. He is not listed in the lawsuit.

By 2011, attendance had increased 150%. Ferguson said a big jump in the number of students had placed a strain on the school's budget.

"We may have to temporarily or permanently lay off some people, we may have to cut benefits, we may have to cut programs," said Ferguson.

The lawsuit goes on to list a number of problems that led the college to close down, with McCall always being the end result.

For example, the lawsuit says the former president improperly used certain endowment funds without telling the board.

Former board members Bill Wagner, Frank Ashcroft, Bob Staton, Gene Brumbelow, Windol Cook, Helen Dubcak, June Deadrick, Jim Crawford and Mark Brown are named in the lawsuit.

Lon Morris lawyers accuse them of failing to thoroughly vet  McCall prior to hiring him in July of 2005.

The lawsuit says McCall did not have any experience whatsoever managing a college or business. Lon morris lawyers say if board members would have thoroughly vetted McCall, they would have known he was functionally illiterate in accounting and finance matters.

The lawsuit claims McCall could not even read a financial statement without significant help.

The lawsuit says the board members and McCall's negligent actions cost the school millions of dollars, $8 to $10 million in accreditation value alone.

The lawsuit says McCall and board defendants should now be held responsible.

We spoke to Dr. McCall by phone at his new job, which is at an East Texas bank. He said he could not comment on legal issues.

We also spoke to one board member who said he had no idea a lawsuit had been filed. Another board member did tell our news partners at the Tyler Morning Telegraph that the board did their jobs to the best of their abilities with everything out in the open.

The law firm representing Lon Morris is based in Dallas.

We spoke to one attorney by phone who told us a court date has not been set at this time.

Although $20 million is an estimate of damage mentioned in the lawsuit, he says a final amount will be determined at trial.


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