A lawsuit filed by a nonprofit family-service provider against Northwest Montana United Way and its former executive director has been resolved through a settlement agreement.
Two Bears Family Center, a former tenant at Gateway Community Center, filed the litigation in October against United Way and Sherry Stevens alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract and other grievances.
Emily von Jentzen, the attorney representing the center and its directors, Bernadette McDonald and Kimberly Kearney, said in a March 3 email that her clients signed the settlement agreement and were relieved to end the litigation so their focus could “return to providing much needed services to the community.”
The settlement’s terms were not disclosed.
United Way served as fiscal agent and landlord of Two Bears Family Center. McDonald and Kearney accused Stevens, United Way’s director, of lack of transparency and financial mismanagement, allegations that were echoed by other local nonprofit leaders during Stevens’ tenure. Stevens resigned in December, and a new executive director, Roxanna Parker, took over the role in late January.
McDonald and Kearney said United Way’s decision to end its fiscal agent relationship and request Two Bears to vacate the premises was an act of retaliation because they had requested to view financial records.
The center is now called Bear Logic Family Center and is operating out of a new permanent location at 119 East Idaho St. in Kalispell.
Kimberly More, United Way’s attorney, released a statement calling the litigation’s allegations “baseless.”
“The settlement of the case is not an admission by the United Way of any wrongdoing,” More said. “The United Way is confident that it would have prevailed and the claims against it would have been dismissed as shown in our Court filings. However, the legal process takes time and the United Way believes that the best way it can serve the community is to bring this matter to an end so that it can focus 100% of its attention to serving the community.
Bruce Fredrickson, Stevens’ attorney, said the “settlement does not represent an admissions of liability.”
“Sherry is absolutely confident that she would have prevailed against all claims asserted against her,” Fredrickson said in an email.
In 2018, United Way settled a separate breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by Summer Baldridge, a Whitefish man who said he had not received funds due to him from the 2015 purchase of the mall property.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.