Moral turpitude is a legal concept that refers to "conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals".
Find below the text of letter sent personally to all members of the Law Society Council on 7th February 2014 which basically summarises what happened to Enmore Spiritualist Church and the events which led to its demise.
Friday, 7th February 2014
Ms Ros Everett
President of the Law Society
9 Macquarie Avenue
Penrith NSW 2750
Dear Ms Everett
Re: Conduct of the Law Society of NSW - alleged wilful blindness to the wrongdoing of solicitors
I write to you in your capacity as President of the Law Society of NSW. A letter with similar content has been sent to all councillors of the Law Society.
Despite what can only be described as appalling and dishonest solicitor conduct, the Law Society of NSW, after a 17 month long ‘investigation’ dismissed 20 complaints against four solicitors of the same firm and steadfastly refuses to explain in any detail its decision to do so.
I believe that the Law Society of NSW has displayed wilful blindness to wrongdoing carried out by those solicitors and I set out the facts as below.
On 5th February 2009, I was elected as vice president and secretary of a small incorporated association in the suburb of Enmore (2042) called Enmore Spiritualist Church Incorporated (herein referred to as “the Church”). My friend and colleague at that time, Chorel Terelinck, was elected as the new treasurer of the association. Chorel, in her new role as treasurer, replaced Ms Patricia Cleary, who had held the role of treasurer for 30 years.
On receipt of the financial records by the new treasurer, it was clear there was a problem. In June 2009 an audit of the finances took place by CBC Partners, Sydney, whereupon it was found that over the years of 2006, 2007 and 2008, the sum of $45,014.52 was unaccounted for and was found to be ‘non-receipted’ expenditure.
It turns out that Ms Patricia Cleary, the still incumbent president of the association at that time, had misappropriated, and had been misappropriating, large sums of money for a large number of years.
A meeting of the members took place on 10th September 2009, and the entire committee was dismissed as a method of removing Ms Cleary from the role of president of the association, and a new committee was elected.
The following day, on 11th September 2009, letters were received from Turner Freeman Lawyers stating that Turner Freeman acted for the Church and stated that the meeting held the evening before at the premises of the Church was invalid. Both of these points were disputed in a response to Turner Freeman. Turner Freeman subsequently wrote once more on 24th September 2009 with the statement:
“We act for Reverend Patricia Cleary, Caroline Allen, Matilda Vila and Miranda McCarthy (also known as Mandy Miami). Throughout this letter we refer to the four persons as ‘our clients’.”
It was clear that Turner Freeman did not act for the Church as no committee meeting had taken place with a motion or resolution made by the majority of the committee to instruct Turner Freeman to act for the incorporated association. The solicitor with carriage of the matter obviously acquiesced to this point due to the statement in his correspondence of 24th September 2009 stating that four individuals were his clients.
It is possible that a meeting of Turner Freeman’s clients took place, but as the constitutional quorum for any committee meeting was five in number any meeting of Turner Freeman’s four clients could not be deemed as a properly constituted meeting of the Church committee.
The four persons remained as clients of Turner Freeman and carried on to commence proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW, mainly seeking to invalidate the meeting of the members of the Church which took place on 10th September 2009.
Proceedings were heard before The Hon Justice Bergin, Chief Judge in Equity, on 27th November 2009 (Supreme Court proceedings 5454/2009). There were four plaintiffs in these proceedings (Turner Freeman’s four clients) and six defendants, of which, I was one of those defendants.
The Church itself was named as the sixth defendant in those proceedings and was an unrepresented party, and remains on the Court record as an unrepresented party.
The first to fifth defendants made a submitting appearance to the Court.
Her Honour denied the plaintiffs a large number of orders sought and made one Order only in the proceedings, being: “Each party is to pay their own costs.”
This solicitor/client costs order made by Her Honour prevented any plaintiff from claiming their costs in the matter from any defendant in the same proceedings.
A number of agreements were made before, and noted by the Court by the parties involved. The first to fifth defendants via their legal representation, agreed to step down as members of the incorporated association, and it was also agreed that the first to fourth defendants in the proceedings could attend the upcoming Annual General Meeting of the Church on or about 4th February 2010 and present their case to the financial members and be reinstated as members if it were so wished by the financial members of the association. It was agreed that the fifth defendant remained as a member upon production of his receipt of membership.
The first to fifth defendants attended the Church premises on 4th February 2010, but they and the rest of the financial members were prevented from entering the Church premises for the Annual General Meeting by an Associate Solicitor from Turner Freeman while that solicitor claimed that the defendants in the proceedings, as well as a large number of financial members of the association, could not enter the premises by ‘Court Order’. This statement by the solicitor concerned was obviously untrue and he therefore defied the will of the Court.
The Associate Solicitor from Turner Freeman, while preventing the Annual General Meeting from taking place, abused financial members outside the Church premises and at one point flung a ream of paper at those standing in front of him.
The Church opened for a short period of time after the proceedings, but the plaintiffs in the proceedings, while purporting to be the committee of the church and without explanation, changed all the locks to the Church premises and closed the Church for all services.
On 23rd June 2010, Turner Freeman filed with the Supreme Court of NSW an Application for Assessment of Solicitor/Client Costs, once again claiming to be acting for the Church in the matter. Turner Freeman makes a large number of untrue statements in that Application and strongly infers that the Church was in fact a plaintiff in the abovementioned proceedings. The abovementioned Application has been provided to the Law Society of NSW on numerous occasions.
An assessment of solicitor/client costs duly took place and Mr John Bartos issued a certificate of determination against the Church in the sum of $124,661.90 while ignorant of the fact that the Church was the sixth defendant in proceedings 5454/2009. Had Assessor Bartos known that the Church was the sixth defendant in proceedings 5454/2009, it is highly unlikely he would have issued such a certificate of determination.
Turner Freeman also makes the claim in the Application for Assessment of Solicitor/Client Costs that 11 Orders were made in proceedings 5454/2009. As you can see from the above Order, this statement is false.
I wrote to the Law Society on 12th July 2013 and described in some detail the several false statements contained in the abovementioned Application.
You will also note that at the rear of the Application for Assessment of Solicitor/Client Costs is a costs agreement signed by Turner Freeman’s clients. The costs agreement has not been signed by the clients as an authority of the incorporated association. In fact, the last page of the costs agreement carries duplicate signatures of the four clients and the header of this page does not carry any mention whatsoever of the incorporated association involved and has the appearance of being ‘tacked on’.
After the proceedings, it was brought to my attention that Turner Freeman sought the Certificate of Title of the Church premises from the Church solicitors, Boyd House and Partners. All requests for an explanation for the seeking of the Title Deeds of the Church premises fell on deaf ears.
Under the tutelage of Turner Freeman, the plaintiffs while still claiming to be the committee of Enmore Spiritualist Church Incorporated, placed the Church into liquidation and forced the sale of the association’s only asset, the premises of 2 London Street, Enmore, in order to pay the legal fees and costs that the plaintiffs incurred in the matters preceding, during and after the abovementioned proceedings.
The transcript of the Supreme Court proceedings 5454/2009 makes note that the purported committee members of Enmore Spiritualist Church Incorporated were only granted committee status as an instrument to call the Annual General Meeting for 2010, which incidentally Turner Freeman deliberately prevented from taking place. The purported committee did not therefore have any other powers apart from the calling of that AGM.
Despite the certificate of determination obtained in the sum of $124,661.90, Turner Freeman, on the winding up of the Church, then claimed it was owed $185,802.62, and therefore created a disparity of $61,140.72.
As an aside, the Church premises sold for $965,000.00 on 21st June 2011, and the remainder of monies after supposed creditors have been paid has seemingly vanished.
As you can see from the above, the behaviour displayed by Turner Freeman is unacceptable. In fact, the above is only a small portion of destructive and unacceptable behaviour on the part of Turner Freeman. Seventeen complaints against two Turner Freeman solicitors were made to the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner on 18 April 2011, which were subsequently passed to the Law Society of NSW for ‘investigation’.
The scope of the ‘investigation’ was later widened to incorporate three more complaints during the ‘investigation’ itself, bringing the total amount of complaints to 20 and such was also widened to include two more solicitors of the same firm.
The above disparity of $61,140.72 became the subject of one of the three topics included in the widening of the scope of my complaints, however, the Law Society failed to uncover the cause of this disparity and declined to put the solicitors concerned to proof regarding same.
In fact, three of the solicitors concerned in the Law Society’s investigation were shown to have provided several dishonest statements to the Law Society during the course of its ‘investigation’ and the Law Society failed, at all times, to seek any clarification whatsoever from those solicitors regarding their untrue statements.
I have made repeated requests to the Law Society to explain its decision in relation to its dismissal of my complaints and the Law Society refuses to respond. I wrote to the Attorney General of NSW on 16th November 2012 in relation to the above and the Attorney General’s office subsequently invited me to write to the President of the Law Society regarding my concerns. This invitation by the Attorney General’s office was also ignored by the Law Society, and as you can understand, I find this to be unacceptable conduct.
The Law Society now returns my correspondence to me without either a response or any action.
It is therefore understandable that I am firmly of the opinion that the Law Society of NSW improperly and deliberately dismissed all my complaints while knowing it should not do so.
You will also understand why I, and many others, find the conduct of the solicitors about whom I complained to be completely unacceptable, and also as unfathomable the Law Society’s decision to dismiss all complaints against the four solicitors concerned.
Additionally, I refer to your comments in the Law Society Journal of February 2014:
“As a profession we must strive to uphold the law…”, and; “I want to raise the public opinion of lawyers…”
Given the examples of questionable solicitor conduct and the questionable conduct of the Law Society itself in this letter, it is easy to empathise with those who have a poor opinion of lawyers.
I, for one, have a poor opinion of the Law Society and its conduct as I do not believe the Law Society has upheld the law, nor do I feel that it raises the public opinion of lawyers, despite its rhetoric.
The Law Society continuously ignoring the concerns raised hardly upholds the law, nor does it raise the public’s opinion of lawyers. The Law Society’s continued silence and its outright refusal to deal with the above issues solidifies the view that something amiss has taken place.
I look forward to your response.
cc Mr Greg Smith SC MP, Attorney General of NSW
Below is the text of a letter sent to the Attorney General of NSW in relation to the 'missing' monies.
Thursday, 24th July 2014
The Hon Brad Hazzard, MP
Attorney General of NSW
Level 31, Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place
Sydney NSW 2000
Dear Attorney General
Re: Turner Freeman - winding up of Enmore Spiritualist Church Inc (“Church”)
I refer to my E-mail to Turner Freeman of 18th July 2014 (copied to your office), and to previous correspondence addressed to your office in relation to the above.
No response has been received to my E-mail to Turner Freeman of 18th July 2014.
As you are already aware, the Church premises, 2 London Street, Enmore, was sold for $965,000.00 on 21st June 2011 to pay a debt purportedly owed to Turner Freeman. This purported debt was for the amount of $185,802.62. Turner Freeman obtained a judgment debt in the District Court Sydney in the amount of $124,661.90. The arisen discrepancy of $61,140.72 has never been explained.
As you will also be aware, some three years after the sale of the premises, the remaining sum of monies is unknown. This amount is in the region of $770,000.00.
In order for Turner Freeman to obtain the said judgment debt against Enmore Spiritualist Church, Turner Freeman filed with the Supreme Court of NSW, on 23rd June 2010, an Application for the Assessment of Solicitor/Client Costs.
In this Application, Turner Freeman makes a number of claims:
1. In this matter, we acted for Enmore Spiritualist Church Incorporated
The above sentence is broad and one could easily understand it to mean that Turner Freeman acted for the Church in Supreme Court proceedings 2009/00291458-001. Enmore Spiritualist Church was the sixth Defendant in those proceedings and remains on the Court record as an unrepresented party.
Turner Freeman acted for the four plaintiffs in the matter.
2. Prior to 12/06/09 the committee members of the Church were Cleary, Allen, McCarthy, Vila, Symn Waters, Chorel Terelinck and Wendy Hemington. On 12/06/09 a committee meeting was held and a resolution passed removing Waters, Terelinck and Hemington as committee members and as members of the Church...
The above statement made by Turner Freeman is untrue. In fact, in correspondence from Terence Goldberg of Turner Freeman, dated 24th September 2009, Mr Goldberg states “That being the case, our clients accept that the resolutions purportedly removing you and the other persons from the Committee on 12 June 2009 were not valid”.
As you can see, the two statements are in direct conflict with each other.
3. On 14/09/09 a committee meeting was held at our offices and a resolution passed providing instructions to act for the Church.
A committee meeting of the church could not have been held in the offices of Turner Freeman on 14th September 2009, as firstly, the quorum for committee meetings was no fewer than five in number; and only four persons attended the offices of Turner Freeman on that date. Secondly, no other committee members were invited to this meeting, and such meeting was simply four church members attending the offices of a solicitor.
4. Turner Freeman makes the claim that 11 Orders were made in proceedings 2009/00291458-001. Her Honour made one Order in those proceedings, ie “Each party is to pay their own costs”.
You will note that Turner Freeman also makes the statements:
· each of the five Defendants are to deliver to Turner Freeman books of accounts, keys and any other Church property
· each of the Defendants was permanently restrained from entering the Church premises or taking control of any property
· each of the Defendants was restrained from calling meetings
Turner Freeman specifically states that there are five Defendants in the proceedings, ie: “each of the five Defendants”, “each of the Defendants was permanently restrained”, “each of the Defendants was restrained”.
There were six Defendants in those proceedings, the Church being the sixth Defendant. Such information is withheld in the Application for Assessment of Solicitor/Client Costs, and it is not mentioned that the Church was a Defendant in the above proceedings.
The question needs to be asked if Assessor Bartos would have issued a certificate of determination had he known the Church was the sixth Defendant in proceedings 2009/00291458-001.
By way of assistance to you, I attach correspondence sent to Turner Freeman on 9th July 2012, which coincidentally, also did not receive any response.
As Turner Freeman is clearly unable to assist in relation to the whereabouts of the unaccounted for monies, I seek from your office that the whereabouts of such is clarified.
I look forward to your response.
cc Turner Freeman Lawyers
cc Turner Freeman Lawyers