A land donation that would have more than doubled the size of Lincoln County's parks system has dwindled dramatically after the donor's sons triumphed in court proceedings to take control of their father's assets.
The donor, former state Sen. Walt Brown, said he feels "massive disappointment" at the development and has relocated to Louisiana as a "judicial refugee," seeking recourse through that state's differently structured legal system.
"I have massive disappointment in the conduct of my sons," he said, "massive disappointment in the conduct of the attorneys - the law firm that the County retained to assist them. I've got massive disappointment in the judges."
Brown donated 184 acres of land on either side of the Siletz River to Lincoln County in 2007, with instructions that it be used to create a park in memory of his wife, Barbara, who died in 1999.
The park would have been far and away the largest in Lincoln County, whose total park inventory at the time amounted to 150 acres.
However, Brown's decision to donate the land did not sit well with his sons, who launched legal proceedings in Clackamas County to have their father declared incapable of handling his affairs.
Brown's oldest son, Jeffrey Brown, told Clackamas County Circuit Court that his father had multiple "mental and physical problems" and had been unable to properly manage his finances for several years.
In a ruling later supported by the Oregon Court of Appeals, the Clackamas court appointed Jeffrey Brown as conservator of his father's estate.
Jeffrey Brown then filed a motion in Lincoln County Circuit Court, alleging that the County "intentionally or mistakenly" misled his father about the tax advantages of the donation and asking that the land be returned to him as conservator.
At their June 8 meeting, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners approved a settlement that would see the County retain 74 acres of the land at a total cost of roughly $45,000 for conservation easements and legal fees (see panel).
The remaining 110 acres would be returned to the conservator, a position now occupied by Portland-based law firm Nancy MacDonald & Associates, LLC.
Speaking from Louisiana, Brown said the terms of the settlement do not honor his wishes.
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A Legacy Challenged