Whitefish Man Sues United Way for Breach of Contract

Lawsuit alleges extended use of a money-market account used to help facilitate the 2015 purchase of the Gateway West Mall

By Molly Priddy
Gateway West Mall. Beacon file photo

A Whitefish man has filed a lawsuit against the local United Way branch, alleging a breach of contract and fraud related to the 2015 purchase of the Gateway West Mall property.

Summerfield Baldridge filed the lawsuit against Northwest Montana United Way and Westside CCC Inc., a nonprofit corporation created to acquire the mall’s real property.

As part of the purchase, Baldridge set up a money-market account as collateral for the United Way’s $2.3 million purchase of the Gateway West Mall. In the suit, Baldridge says the money-market account was only supposed to be used as collateral for two years and then released back to him, with the return of security interest and interest owed.

“The security interest has not been returned and interest owing has not been paid to Baldridge within two years,” the suit states. “As a result, Baldridge has suffered damages.”

Baldridge, represented by Paul Sandry, asked Flathead District Court Judge Dan Wilson in the lawsuit for the interest owed, to determine the agreement between him and the United Way be rescinded, for an order releasing the money-market fund as the loan security, and other damages.

Sherry Stevens, executive director at Northwest Montana United Way, said she could not comment on the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, filed in May, Baldridge agreed to open up a money-market account at Glacier Bank with $600,000 so United Way could use the account as security for repayment of a $2,323,400 loan from Glacier Bank to pay for the property purchase.

Baldridge says that he did not agree to donate interest otherwise payable to him from the account. The complaint states that the money-market account would be used as a “bridge” arrangement until United Way could secure grants and other charitable donations to take place of the money-market account.

This was supposed to take place by 2017, the complaint alleges. It also alleges that Baldridge was not given basic information nor the release of his money-market account. The complaint also says that any provision in the agreement that stated Baldridge would donate interest accrued was “inserted into the Agreement by mistake or oversight.”

The fraud allegation says “Defendants knew or should have known at the time the representation regarding the ‘bridge’ aspect of the agreement was made that it was either false or Defendants were ignorant of the veracity of the statement.”