Orders upheld in CF Lodge dispute

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CLARK FORK — A 1st District Court judge is affirming a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the former owner of the Clark Fork Lodge.

Judge Barbara Buchanan entered orders last month requiring Kelly Theodore Kearns to vacate the premises and return property belonging to the lodge, according to court documents. An attorney for Kearns sought to dissolve the orders, but Buchanan declined to disturb them during a hearing earlier this month.

The new owner of the lodge, William B. Stevenson, sought the orders after Kearns was unsuccessful in amending or unwinding their real estate transaction, court records indicate.

Court filings in the case describe a transaction marked by a clouded title, surprise easements of dubious provenance, an attempt to evict Stevenson, confiscated office equipment and an alleged attempt to hijack Stevenson’s business accounts related to the lodge after the sale went through.

Stevenson agreed to purchase the lodge from Kearns in October of last year for $700,000, but the sale was slowed by Junior Hillbroom’s ownership interest in the property, according to court documents. It was also discovered that Kearns, without notice, caused access and septic infrastructure easements to be recorded, court documents indicate.

One of the easements had conflicting dates and a notarized signature which appeared to have been falsified, according to court records.

As the sale tracked toward closure this spring, Stevenson said in the affidavit that Kearns attempted to modify the terms of the transaction or undo it because the lodge’s high season was approaching and he needed money.

Stevenson, court documents said, turned down the proposals and the sale was finalized in April. Kearns later showed up on the property with a Bonner County sheriff’s deputy to enforce a repossession action, but Stevenson alleges Kearns’ proof of ownership were outdated deed records. Kearns, the suit alleges, proceeded to remove office equipment and a credit card terminal, in addition to changing the locks.

Stevenson also accuses Kearns of falsifying a document in an attempt to take control of the lodge’s accounts for utilities and online services, court records said. Stevenson said he was allowed to remain in the lodge manager’s apartment, where he “observed Mr. Kearns changing locks, destroying or modifying property on a daily if not hourly basis.”

Stevenson’s counsel, Brent Featherston, successfully argued for the restraining order last month.

Stevenson said in court documents he feared for his safety and alleged that Kearns tore down a fence to impede his access to the apartment.

“The conduct evidenced by the defendant in the past indicates a willingness to cause irreparable harm to the plaintiff by forcibly taking his property and effects,” Buchanan said in the order.

Kearns’ counsel, James Macdonald, sought to dissolve the order by arguing that the sale never closed so the title to the lodge remains vested in his client. Mcdonald further argued that the fence was torn down because it was in the process of falling down.

“Kearns has never threatened plaintiff,” Macdonald said in court documents.

Buchanan, however, ruled during a May 2 hearing that her prior orders will remain in place.

A follow-up hearing in the case is set for May 22.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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