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Nineteenth Century Club goes back to court

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The Nineteenth Century Club was back in court Monday. A group of high society women are fighting over the sale of the mansion.

The group of well-to-do women are battling it out over the fate of the 106-year-old building. Though genteel, the battle is clearly intense.

Steve Mulroy, attorney for the plaintiffs, laid out the conflict in the case.

"There was huge concern among the membership about whether the sale would result in the preservation of the building or the demolition of the building," he said.

The plaintiffs say Nineteenth Century Club members were misled when a 2012 meeting agenda said the women would vote whether to list the property for sale, when in fact the vote was to sell the property to The Union Group.

"Once the membership voted for sale, the leadership of the club, according to statute, had the authority to deal with the details," said Nineteenth Century Club's attorney, Arthur Quinn.

Quinn says the mansion was falling apart due to dwindling membership and all members knew they needed action.

"We were the only ones who complied and got into a sealed bid within the time frame as announced in the auction notification," said John Phillips, The Union Group.

Proceeds from the sale went to the Children's Museum of Memphis, which is now a party in the case.

"This organization serves 187,000 children a year. Irreparable harm that's going to occur is tied up," said Bob Craddock, Children's Museum of Memphis attorney.

Court arguments revealed the museum already committed the money to buying an exhibit and money is now due.

Club member Lisa Bobango suggested club leadership censored her when she wanted to discuss turning over the building to the Women's Foundation of Greater Memphis.

"The parliamentarian, immediately before I could finish what I was saying, said I did not have the floor," said Bobango.

"Isn't it true, you're aware of this, the building had been cited in environmental court since January. The three defendants will put their own witnesses on the stand," said Quinn.

One option the judge may consider is for the full membership of the club to vote on the sale of the mansion.

Plaintiff Teresa Hurst agrees that something is not right about the way the mansion was sold.

"I just think it's good for the City of Memphis to preserve its history," she said.

In her first TV interview since the battle over the sale of the Nineteenth Century Club began, Hurst explained why she was willing to take the fight to court.

"We're here only to try to save the building and get into the hands of someone who will preserve the building as opposed to demolish it," she said.

The lifetime club member, who does not frequent club business meetings, suggested the full membership did not have a proper say in the sale of the mansion.

"I think it was an unfair process and I think it is to be redone," she added.

In court, active club members said club leadership hid discussions to sell the mansion to The Union Group.

Hurst also believes the sale had more opposition than club leaders are letting on.

"I know that there have been people saying that there were more 'no' votes than they are alleging," she explained. "I think the evidence will prove that misstatements may have been made."

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