New trustee will scrutinize deal

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AIKEN --- A Columbia accountant was appointed Tuesday to examine a proposed settlement agreement for the James Brown estate.

Judge Jack Early of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court told attorneys that Russell Bauknight, who was named a trustee and special administrator, would have "limited authority to explore the possibility of having the settlement agreement approved" by the court at the next hearing in January.

In their motion, attorneys had asked for a neutral trustee to review a proposed settlement agreement concerning the estate and the 2000 Irrevocable Trust.

The parties in the agreement include the South Carolina Attorney General's Office, five of the late singer's six children mentioned in his will, his grandchildren and his fourth wife, Tomi Rae Brown.

James Bailey, the attorney for current trustees Adele Pope and Robert Buchanan, objected to the appointment of a special administrator, saying that it would do irreparable harm to the estate.

"By appointing a special administrator, the sole purpose is to ramrod this settlement agreement through," Mr. Bailey told the judge, who disagreed.

Earlier this month, the South Carolina attorney general filed a petition to have Ms. Pope and Mr. Buchanan replaced as court-appointed trustees by someone who has the accounting expertise to deal with the estate.

Mr. Bauknight will not replace the current trustees. In approving the motion, the judge said he was in "no way making any criticism about Buchanan and Adele Pope in the job they have done to date."

The current trustees also have objected to the settlement agreement, saying that they were not included in the negotiations.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.

SETTLEMENT DETAILS

The proposed agreement over James Brown's estate stipulates that any assets and proceeds received now and in the future through the estate be divided as follows: 50 percent to the charitable trust; 25 percent to Tomi Rae Brown, which includes any share to James Brown II; and 25 percent to Mr. Brown's children Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Venisha Brown, Deanna Brown Thomas and Yamma N. Brown.

The parties also agree to recognize Mrs. Brown as the late singer's legal wife at the time of his death on Christmas Day 2006.


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