April 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Kameny estate drops lawsuit against two activists
Timothy Clark, gay news, gay politics dc

Timothy Clark. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Timothy Lamont Clark, who was named by the late gay rights leader Frank Kameny as the main beneficiary of Kameny’s estate, has withdrawn a lawsuit he filed last month against two of four friends and fellow activists of Kameny’s.

Through his attorneys, Clark on March 29 asked a D.C. Superior Court judge to dismiss the lawsuit against Charles Francis and Bob Witeck. One of the attorneys, Glen Ackerman, said the suit was dropped after Francis and Witeck agreed to return to the estate property that the suit claimed the two men “wrongfully” removed from Kameny’s house shortly after he died last October.

Ackerman said Francis returned 17 boxes containing a wide array of Kameny’s belongings, including a World War II-era military uniform and military metals, which Ackerman said belong to Kameny’s estate. He said Witeck returned a collection photographs.

Francis and Witeck said before the suit was filed that they had taken the items for safekeeping and planned to return them. Kameny’s will named Clark as his personal representative as well as the beneficiary of his house and all other possessions except his papers, which he bequeathed to the Library of Congress.

The two others named in Clark’s lawsuit — Richard Rosendall and Marvin Carter —have yet to return items they allegedly took from Kameny’s house shortly after Kameny died, Ackerman said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Once again, the Blade in this article has failed to disclose that Mr. Ackerman is the Blade’s own attorney. A one-time disclosure is not enough; it should be included in every relevant news article. As to the claims made against me, my attorney has responded on my behalf to the court.

  • “Kameny Estate Lawyer Also Reps Gay Museum that Wants Icon’s Papers. Legal minds will eventually have to weigh in on the evidence I am presenting here and decide if ethical lines have been crossed. … Another client of Ackerman’s is the Velvet Foundation, a nonprofit pushing for a National LGBT Museum in DC and he’s not only listed on their site as providing community support to the project, he also is the attorney of record for the trademark application for the word mark HERE I AM. The owner history shows it’s the Velvet Foundation, and all correspondence is directed to Ackerman at the physical address for his law firm. The 2010 IRS 990 tax filing for the foundation … reveals $14,000 and $10,000 in assets for the Kameny Project Collection. First I’m hearing about this collection and certainly wonder what it contains. Curious to know if Ackerman hopes to recover the possessions for the plaintiff and then sell or donate them to the foundation. … Here’s one ethical question to consider. Can Ackerman represent plaintiff Clark and the Velvet Foundation simultaneously without any conflict of interest? Googling turned up a 2009 press release from the nonprofit, stating a number of things I was not aware of regarding the gay pioneer’s archive: [quote] Velvet Foundation is pleased to announce its purchase of the Kameny Papers Project’s remaining artifacts. The collection is now part of the Foundation’s permanent collection . . .”We could not be more happy with the acquisition of the Kameny Papers. While many believe that the entire collection went to the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress, a substantial portion of the collection did not,” said Timothy Scofield, Executive Director of the Velvet Foundation. “The items in this collection are key to telling the full breadth of American experience. We are honored to have gained the trust of Frank Kameny [and] the Kameny Papers Project . . .” [end quote] … The lawsuit clearly illustrates how that trust the project has deteriorated and the motives of Ackerman, the plaintiff Clark and the National LGBT Museum need to be made more transparent. Even way out here on the Left Coast, something just doesn’t smell right about Ackerman’s lawsuit and how he can serve two clients without stumbling over ethical quandaries.” – Michael Petrelis, “The Petrelis Files,” March 9, 2012.

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