- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The University of the District of Columbia is asking a federal judge to dismiss a request that the school return hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from a prominent health care executive.

In court documents made public yesterday, the university said the funds sought by a liquidating trust charged with recovering assets of Doctors Community Healthcare Corp. have not been transferred to the school from a nonprofit organization called the UDC Foundation Inc.

The university said in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court pleadings that the school and the foundation are separate entities, arguing that UDC should not be held liable for charitable donations held by the foundation.

However, the trust wants the university to pay back $330,000 — money it says former Doctors Community Healthcare Corp. Chief Executive Officer Paul R. Tuft gave to the school using borrowed corporate money.

In addition, the trust wants a judge to declare the university in default because it says the school has failed to meet court deadlines to respond to the complaint.

University officials filed their response in court Tuesday — more than two months after a court-ordered Jan. 10 deadline — in legal documents that were made public yesterday.

School officials yesterday acknowledged filing late, but said their response was not prompted by inquiries from The Washington Times on Tuesday.

University General Counsel Robin C. Alexander said in court papers the school “promptly” began to prepare a legal response to the creditor’s complaint, but forgot to file because of understaffing and distractions of other major cases involving the school.

“Under-resourced like much of the University since the tragic budget cuts and forced downsizings of the 1990s, counsel had to tend to every detail of evidence collection and production herself, including two weeks of virtually back-to-back depositions,” Miss Alexander wrote in the filing.

She asked the federal court that the university “not be penalized for counsel’s forgetfulness.”

“Defendant is a corporate entity and is not an infant,” the trust’s attorneys wrote of the delay in a legal filing earlier this month.

UDC President William L. Pollard, in an affidavit included in the school’s response, said Mr. Tuft originally pledged a $500,000 donation, but foundation records show a total of $230,000 worth from four checks between November 2001 and October 2002.

The trust, however, contends that Mr. Tuft donated five checks and a total of $330,000 to the school between October 2001 and October 2002.

University officials said the pledge — described at the time as one of the biggest in UDC history — was earmarked for a community-service program focusing on “urban health issues.” UDC said in legal papers that it has not established any such program and that as a result, the funds have not been transferred from the foundation to the school.

The donations from Mr. Tuft were made before Doctors Community went bankrupt in 2002, according to the trust. Now the trust says the university should forfeit the funds so they can be distributed to creditors. Doctors Community emerged from bankruptcy last year.

A hearing on the trust’s complaint against the university scheduled for yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court was postponed, said an attorney for the trust.

Mr. Tuft declined to comment, referring to an attorney who was not available by press time.

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