Oklahoma Charity Founders Sue Hobby Lobby Owner

By KRISTI EATON | May 12, 2011

The founders of the charity Feed The Children are suing the founder and owner of Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby, saying he played a role in pushing them out of their jobs.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Oklahoma County District Court, Larry and Frances Jones argue billionaire David Green and other members of the Green family conspired to take control of Oklahoma City-based Feed The Children.

David Green’s sons, Mart Green and Steve Green, and grandson David Tyler Green were also named as defendants. Mart Green is the founder of Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores.

“We’re claiming that the Greens – behind the scenes – were involved in influencing the board,” said Gary Richardson, lawyer for the Joneses, during a news conference.

The lawsuit claims tortuous interference, defamation and civil conspiracy.

The Feed the Children board of directors fired Larry Jones from the charity in 2009. Frances Jones resigned in December 2010.

According to the lawsuit, the Green family used their friendships and business relationships with several members of the board to influence the removal of Larry Jones from the organization.

Larry Jones claims that during a July meeting, Mart Green informed him that the Green family was going to rescue Feed The Children. At a second meeting that month, the Joneses say the Green family shared their plans to take over the charity and bring in a new president.

In a written statement, Bill Johnson, attorney for the Green family, said the lawsuit was a financially-motivated attempt to tarnish the reputation of the Green family and their standing in the community.

“The Greens will not be victimized by such shakedown tactics nor dignify the allegations with a detailed response other than to say that the charges of wrongdoing are completely false and categorically denied,” he said in the statement.

The Green family donated $70 million to Oral Roberts University in 2007, which helped the financially-strapped Christian university get out of debt.

Jones earlier filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Feed The Children. That lawsuit was settled in January, according to Tony Sellars, spokesman for Feed The Children.

The Green family has no association with Feed The Children, Sellars said in a statement, but the organization appreciates what the family has done for the state.

“They are outstanding corporate citizens,” he said. “We hold their moral and ethical character in the highest regard.”

The Joneses are not asking for their jobs back. Instead, they are asking for monetary damages to be determined by a jury.

“I think both of us would rather be out doing what we’ve done for 30 years,” said Frances Jones, who started the relief organization with her husband in 1979. “It’s heartbreaking when your whole life, over 30 years of my life, has been taken away from me not by my choice.”

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