Group wants to rescue pet cemetery Animal league voices an interest

owner faces new legal woes

February 12, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A nonprofit animal advocacy group -- concerned about the fate of the 22,000 animals buried at Elkridge's embattled pet cemetery -- wants to take over the property temporarily to rescue it from legal limbo.

Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park on U.S. 1 essentially has been abandoned since last week when its owner tried to give it back to the bank -- a move that the bank has resisted because of the cemetery's many troubles.

Even as the Baltimore-based Animal Welfare League tries to resolve problems at the cemetery -- home to the deceased pets of former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and stripper Blaze Starr -- cemetery owner William A. Green is facing new legal scrutiny.

According to a bankruptcy court trustee and court records, one of Green's former real estate development companies is being investigated for possibly hiding assets from creditors -- which could lead to criminal penalties.

That follows a recent judgment against Green for more than $20,000 awarded to 16 disgruntled pet owners by a Circuit Court judge last month for deceptive trade practices, criminal charges filed against Green by the Howard County police on behalf of the Howard County Office of Consumer Affairs, more than 30 lawsuits filed against Green and his seven real estate corporations and allegations that Green stole $41,000 from the Sharp Street Memorial Methodist Church in Baltimore.

In recent interviews, Green has maintained that he has done nothing wrong.

To protect the pet cemetery, Edgar Gans, attorney for the Commercial and Farmer's Bank in Ellicott City, said an agreement allowing the animal league to care for the property may be worked out within a week. "We're more than delighted to have their assistance," Gans said.

Elizabeth Kirk, president of the animal league, said that under its tentative agreement with Commercial and Farmer's Bank, one person already has been designated to be the principal caretaker for the cemetery, but she hopes others will volunteer to help.

Commercial and Farmer's Bank foreclosed on the property last week after Green failed to pay his mortgage.

When the bank auctions the historic cemetery -- an auction that could be several months away -- the league hopes to purchase the site near Route 176, Kirk said. But she said she is worried that her organization may not be top bidder.

The league has worked in Baltimore for 30 years and provides education about spaying and neutering pets, as well as financial assistance for pet owners to care for their pets.

News of the league's involvement brought some relief yesterday to pet owners worried about the plight of their pets. The cemetery's caretaker quit about two weeks ago, its phone has been disconnected, and Green says he has not gone near the site recently because he's received death threats.

Pet owners say they are happy the cemetery is out of Green's hands.

"To have someone rip us off when we are not in the best frame of mind. is heartless," said Janet Lennox, a Glen Burnie resident whose three dogs and a cat are buried at the cemetery. She alleges that Green never delivered a $600 grave marker she ordered.

Said Stephen D. Hannan, administrator of the Howard County's Office of Consumer Affairs: "It does please us that it is going to be looked after. We've had some concerns there would be no one there to handle the remains. There are also humans buried there."

Green said he, too, has been concerned about the cemetery and is happy someone was going to look after it, but he said he disapproved of the Animal Welfare League, saying the group is stepping in only for public relations.

"I'm not a mean ogre. I am not a terrible person," Green said in an interview. "The reason I walked away from [the cemetery] is because it needed to have me away because of the negative publicity."

Meanwhile, the bankruptcy case of one of Green's former companies -- Acquest Homes Inc. -- has been reopened by a U.S. bankruptcy judge after allegations that Green did not disclose all his assets and later sold a piece of property belonging to the company, court records show.

Joel I. Sher, a Baltimore attorney and court-appointed bankruptcy trustee for Acquest, said he is investigating whether the company has more assets than it disclosed when it filed for bankruptcy in 1993.

"At earlier meetings, [Green] professed to have no knowledge of any assets for Acquest," Sher said. But then, according to Sher and court records filed by a title insurance company, Green sold a piece of land in Randallstown for $123,000 -- some of which might belong to the company's 58 creditors, court records say.

In an interview Monday night, Green said that he did not know the property was still listed under the Acquest Homes name.

He said that three years before filing for bankruptcy, he paid a title company to switch the property to his own name. That company is now out of business, he said.

"There were no hidden assets in the corporation," Green said.

Green said he used the money to pay off a mortgage with Reisterstown Federal Savings Bank. "Let [the creditors] fight over it with Reisterstown," Green said.

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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