Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Lawsuit: Goering botched estate

Brother claims value withered

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

In his work as a private attorney, Hamilton County Treasurer Robert Goering is accused of ineptly managing a nearly $2.2 million estate that shrunk to a worth of just $62,000, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The suit, filed in Hamilton County by Eric Deters on behalf of Elmer Gundrum, who inherited the estate in May 2001 from his sister, alleges that Goering failed to hire an investment adviser to diversify stocks and failed to file state and federal tax returns, resulting in $237,952 in penalties and interest lodged against the estate.

"It was shocking," Deters said. "What makes it worse was he is (Hamilton County's) treasurer. "He's supposed to know how to handle money."

Deters said his client seeks to recover the money through Goering's legal-malpractice insurance.

Elmer Gundrum never got any of the money he inherited from his sister Doris, the suit claims. At the time of her death in June 2000, much of her estate was in the form of stocks she owned in two Cincinnati companies, Broadwing and Convergys. The suit alleges that when the stock sold in 2002, its value had plummeted.

Goering is on vacation and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Then-Hamilton County Probate Court Judge Wayne Wilke appointed Goering, who practices as a private attorney in addition to his work as treasurer, to oversee the estate. As a Kentucky resident, Elmer Gundrum was ineligible to oversee an Ohio estate.

The Gundrum estate was the first Goering had been appointed to administer.

In a deposition in the case, Goering said he had some experience with tax laws, but not estate tax.

When asked if the fees that could be made off the estate were one of the reasons why he accepted the case, Goering said: "Sure."

Goering billed the estate $75,000 a year for managing it.

Goering said he believed attorneys for the estate should have filed tax returns, not the administrator, which was his role.

Lawsuits against administrators, whether they are attorneys or family members, aren't uncommon, said Hamilton County Probate Court Judge James Cissell.

Deters said he'll ask probate court to set a trial date as soon as possible.



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