Attorney Cris Helton has been given two more weeks by Chancellor Howell Peoples to turn in an accounting of his handling of an estate.
Chancellor Peoples last week had a sheriff's officer take the attorney to jail after he failed to come to court on a show cause order in connection with the estate of Mary Elizabeth Finley.
Attorney Helton, who is the city attorney for East Ridge, was released after posting a $2,500 appearance bond.
He was removed from handling the Finley estate by Chancellor Peoples on June 23, 2006.
Attorney Michael Luhowiak, who took over the estate, said he found that attorney Helton had written checks to himself from the estate for $15,000. He said no accounting was ever given on the payments and there was no court approval.
He said a check for $515 from the Finley estate was written by attorney Helton to his then law firm, McKoon, Williams & Gold.
Attorney Luhowiak said, "Not only was Helton's $15,000 compensation as personal representative taken from the estate without court approval, but also it was excessive under Local Rule 18.14"
He said the gross estate was estimated at $550,000, and the fee for handling it should be $14,700 "applying the most generous schedule."
Attorney Luhowiak said he found that attorney Helton sold a house owned by Mrs. Finley at 1509 Garner St. in East Ridge to his son for $42,500. He said that was less than the appraised value of $50,000. Attorney Helton, in one court filing, said the house had an estimated value of $60,000.
Attorney Luhowiak said, "A beneficiary later advised the successor administrator that Helton had declined one or two offers by prospective buyers to purchase that house for an amount that was at least the appraised value."
Attorney Luhowiak said in March 2007, "Helton's partners at McKoon, Williams & Gold determined that not all of the file had been turned over to the successor administrator and provided the successor administrator with the remainder of Helton's files on the decedent which was contained in two large bankers' boxes.
"Upon examination of said files, the successor administrator determined that they contained undeposited checks that were properly payable to the decedent's estate, including checks for earnest money paid during the sale of the two properties, one of which was the Garner Street property, Social Security checks and IRS tax refund checks that had expired."
He said he found that Mrs. Finley's final income tax return and estate tax return were filed late, but no subsequent estate income tax returns were filed for the years 2004 and 2005.
Attorney Luhowiak said while attorney Helton was over the estate he failed to open stacks of mail - primarily bills that had been sent directly to his office. He said a number of the bills that were not paid were turned over to collection agencies.
He said there were 30 bills and notices from EPB as well as bills from Comcast, Erlanger Medical Center and others.
Chancellor Peoples said an order was entered March 16 directing attorney Helton to "account for personal representative fees and expenses with this court on or before March 30, 2007, by filing itemized statements of tasks performed and time spent on each task in support of all fees received in this matter."
Attorney Helton asked for an extension on April 2, saying he had recently moved his office.
When the accounting was not received, attorney Luhowiak asked for the show cause order on April 26. The motion was heard on May 14, and attorney Helton did not appear.
The matter was called to court on May 31, and attorney Helton still did not appear.
Chancellor Peoples then wrote, "Because of his refusal or failure to comply with the court's orders, the court finds that it is necessary to have the sheriff bring Mr. Helton before the court.
"It is therefore ordered that the sheriff of Hamilton County, Tennessee attach J. Cris Helton and hold him in jail in lieu of an appearance bond in the amount of $2,500 to secure his appearance before this court on June 18, 2007."
Attorney Helton has hired attorneys Roger Dickson and Chink Brown to represent him in the matter.