Moving to put a bitter family feud to rest, the descendants of millionaire developer Ralph DeChiaro yesterday received a judge's blessing on a settlement that would end a lawsuit pitting sister against sister.
Although the issues in the suit were not resolved -- Baltimore County Circuit Judge John F. Fader II said he will name the lawyer Monday who will oversee the family trust funds -- yesterday's hearing moved the case close to a resolution.
"We are, right now, on the 3-yard line," Thomas N. Biddison Jr., a lawyer in the case, said after the hearing.
Sisters on both sides of the suit said they are working to restore family and business ties that were shredded by allegations of financial maneuvering and power plays.
"We still have some work to do in all areas," said Carol Scheffenacker Gallagher, the DeChiaro daughter who rose to head the family businesses and was sued by her two sisters. "We've just all agreed to work very hard to settle all our differences. And that's the most important thing -- that we work on it."
Her sister, Diane Rachuba, speaking publicly for the first time about the feud, said, "Everything feels comfortable in the family again."
The third sister, Roberta Hucek, declined to comment.
Ralph DeChiaro, the 84-year-old retired developer who lives in Towson, did not attend the hearing yesterday.
DeChiaro amassed a fortune estimated at $150 million through such projects as hotels, apartments, housing developments and JTC the shopping center that became Towson Town Center. Along the way, he set up trust funds for his descendants. But management of the trust funds and the family businesses came under scrutiny after Hucek and Rachuba, along with their children, sought in a suit filed last year to oust Gallagher as head of the family businesses.
The two sisters also asked the judge to remove lawyer John C. Evelius as trustee of the family trust funds.
After Fader rejected those efforts in March, the sisters hashed out a settlement to the suit. The sisters agreed to ask the judge to determine who would be trustee of the trust fund.
Fader said yesterday that he would approve the settlement, except for a provision calling for a term limit for the trustee.
Monday, he will decide whether Evelius will remain as trustee. The other candidate for the job, nominated by all three sisters, is Roger K. Garfink, 56, head of the real estate department in the Baltimore law firm Weinberg & Green.
Pub Date: 10/24/96