Two parties claiming ownership of Town and Country Farm School, and the millions of dollars’ worth of land and assets that come with it, returned to court last week to discuss allegations of theft and threats of violence.
The dispute involves two families, each with a 50% interest in Town and Country Farm School: Dick Schlander, the founding owner of Town and Country Farm School, and Lori Broussard, Schlander’s daughter, represent one side; the other is Schlander’s business partner, Lad Lengyel, and his two sons, William and Steven.
Both sides’ court filings reference the death of Diane Schlander in November 2018, Dick’s wife and the longtime educational director and administrator of the school, as the impetus for most of Town and Country Farm School’s troubles. However, each side alleges the problems escalated into theft and threats earlier this year, resulting in the school eventually being shut down, according to court documents obtained by The Signal.
The Schlanders subsequently sought a stay-away order against William Lengyel for personal conduct, which was granted Thursday, with an exception that Broussard not be at the school at the same time as William. The court also issued other orders for the preservation of Town and Country School’s corporate assets, in order to pay creditors. The funds were ordered to be placed in a trust account in the name of the Lengyels; however, due to a court order, the Schlanders’ counsel must approve any payments and withdrawals.
Attorneys for the Lengyels were not available for comment as of this story’s publication. An attorney for the Schlanders described the situation as a shameful series of events.
“What occurred is disgraceful,” said attorney Jeffery Hacker, speaking on behalf of the Schlanders, his clients. “It was a unique school with a unique environment, and they’ve been a fixture in the community for close to 40 years. They deserved a better fate. It was not (Dick and Lori’s intention) to close the school.”
The Lengyel complaint
In their complaint filed with the court March 11, the Lengyels assert that Lad Lengyel and Schlander are the only directors of Town and Country Farm School. Broussard has “no other affiliation” to the school, according to the filing, outside of being Schlander’s daughter. The complaint also alleges Broussard assisted her father in a “conspiracy to loot funds” from the school, while giving no funds to Lad Lengyel — who’s been living in Arizona for about a decade — despite the school’s profitability.
“In addition to massive embezzlement, upon information and belief (Schlander) has now stopped managing (the school) or performing any other function for the corporation, yet he still receives a salary from Town and Country Farm School,” reads their complaint.
The Department of Social Services cited Town and Country Farm School “for numerous violations relating to child safety including operating a facility without a licensed owner.”
The Lengyels also allege that there was a cover-up committed by Schlander and Broussard, who used a lack of mandated annual board meetings and “cooking the financial records” as a refusal to take “any positive action,” their civil complaint says.
“It would be a useless gesture to continue to request Town and Country Farm School to take appropriate action against (Schlander and Broussard),” the complaint said, adding Lengyel says he attempted to inspect the facility grounds, operations and books multiple times. “Defendants refused to allow the meeting to take place at Town and Country Farm School and instead insisted it take place at their lawyer’s office. Defendants brought none of the Town and Country Farm School documents with them.”
The complaint then goes on to list eight causes of action against the Broussards. In addition to asking for damages of at least $1 million for half of the causes, the Lengyels are seeking additional compensation for damages to be determined by the court.
The Schlanders’ cross-complaint
The request for a stay-away order was issued as the result of the Schlanders’ complaint, which alleged that William Lengyel confronted Lori Broussard in person on a number of occasions, including a March 15 phone call in which a caller, believed to have been William Lengyel, stated: “Lori, we can do this civilly or in rage,” according to the Schlanders’ cross-complaint.
The calls and interactions that eventually resulted in a police report being filed weren’t the start of the hostile exchanges and actions, according to the Schlanders’ cross-complaint filed March 28. The documents allege Lad Lengyel and his sons neglected their financial responsibilities to the school and committed fraud in order to the gain personal enrichment in amounts that exceed $81,000.
Following Diane Schlander’s death, the school apparently underwent a number of Department of Social Services site evaluations and complaints. Following a Feb. 15 meeting meeting at DSS offices, where all parties involved except Lad Lengyel were in attendance, Broussard informed DSS the school’s vacant education director position had been filled — which was a prior concern cited by DSS — and the school was “moving forward with corrections.”
A letter sent by the Lengyels’ attorney dated Feb. 24 reads that because of an “inability to perform basic corporate functions and his hiding critical facts from our client such as the death of such a significant corporate officer (Diane) and the non-compliance issues with the DSS, the corporation must be immediately shut down and the school must be closed” for the sake of child safety and the corporation’s liability.
Three days earlier, Lad Lengyel is alleged to have begun to stage “a coup to take over the school’s operations” and had asked to dissolve the corporation, unbeknownst to Broussard or Schlander. According to Hacker, his clients had intended to remedy with the DSS and get the school back on its feet. (Attendance at that point had dropped to 13 students, according to court filings.)
On March 4, however, the Lengyels are alleged to have then withdrawn all funds in the corporate bank accounts at the Bank of Santa Clarita, which included the corporation’s “payroll, operating account, as well as the partnership account,” all without the permission of Broussard or Schlander, according to court documents filed on the behalf of the Schlanders.
The final days of Town and Country
At a March 7 meeting in the office of the counsel for Town and Country’s corporate entity — in which the Schandlers and Lengyels each have a 50% stake — the parties met in hopes of finding an amicable solution. Counsel for the Lengyels asked for the corporation’s books, at which time corporate counsel produced “no corporate books,” according to the documents. Richard Schandler and Broussard then offered to purchase the Lengyels’ interest in the corporation and the properties on the basis of a current appraisal.
Later that day, through email, the Lengyels’ lawyer sent a counter-offer asking for one of the two parcels of land owned by the corporation (the vacant lot next to the school), and a lump sum of $2.2 million.
Shortly thereafter, Broussard discovered the school’s corporate accounts were empty, after the school’s AT&T land line was shut off due to a bounced check March 8, according to the Schlanders’ complaint.
The school closed down the same day as the reported bounced check and without the Schlanders’ knowledge or permission, according to the documents.
“(The Lengyels) closed the school’s bank account, stiffed creditors, left employees in the lurch unilaterally locked the school, canceled classes, failed to provide any accounting and have not presented any plan or discussed an orderly transaction for the corporation,” the complaint said.
Several former Town and Country Farm School staffers have confirmed they were not paid as of the publication of this article.
Until the animals were taken from the premises to an undisclosed location, Broussard says she and her daughter fed the over 60-plus animals on the school grounds, according to the Schlanders’ cross-complaint.
A day in court
Following last week’s court appearance, the two parties are scheduled to reconvene May 14 for a hearing to select a third-party director to help provide a tie-breaking vote on matters of corporation between Schlander and Lengyel.
“Each side may submit two proposed directors, along with declarations showing their credentials, willingness to serve, cost of service, lack of a conflict, and how the proponent knows them or knows of them,” according to court records.
A jury trial date, which the Schlanders’ counsel has requested, has not yet been set.