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Bankruptcy Filing Haunts Challenger to Maggart

by Andrea Zelinski on July 9, 2012

In 2005, Courtney Rogers’ life savings were gone.

The oil distributorship business her husband bought with a friend months before the 9/11 attacks had failed. Business debts were piling up. And the couple was filing for bankruptcy.

And even though it stemmed from the failure of her husband’s company, Rogers is being sucked back into that difficult chapter in their lives now that she’s running for state political office. Rogers is waging a dark horse campaign to unseat one of the House’s leading Republicans, GOP Caucus Leader Debra Maggart, of Hendersonville.

Michael Rogers’ company — BSR Petroleum Distributors Inc. — consumed $55,000 of the Rogers family’s savings as profit margins shrunk following the terrorist attacks, forcing the pair to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Rogers and her campaign said.

“There was nothing we could do. We fought it off for a few years, we emptied our savings. But the margins never came back,” said Rogers.

Rogers and her husband filed for bankruptcy in March of 2005, according to court records. The couple listed liabilities of more than $930,000, with most of those debts, nearly $730,000, tied to his company. Their legal obligation to pay their debt was gone three months later, and their assets were liquidated.

“I don’t know that we’d do anything different because no one could foresee that,” she said of her husband buying Pulaski-based Chiles Oil Inc., and launching their business six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The revelation of Rogers’ bankruptcy is the newest twist in the Aug. 2 primary race for District 45 in Sumner County between the two conservative Republicans. A handful of interest groups are flooding Rogers with support in an effort to unseat the politically powerful Maggart as payback for leading the charge against issues they hold dear, including the National Rifle Association, which so far has plugged more than $75,000 into the race.

Rogers has not filed a disclosure of the bankruptcy with the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

It’s unclear whether she is in violation of election law, which requires candidates running for election to fill out paperwork listing “any adjudication of bankruptcy or discharge received in any United States district court within five years of the date of this report.” Omitting information could result in a fine up to $10,000.

Although the court issued the Rogerses their bankruptcy in 2005, it took court officials until 2008 to close their case, well within the five-year window.

The issue would only get vetted if Maggart or someone else filed a formal ethics complaint against Rogers.

Maggart declined to comment directly on whether she would do so. When asked, Maggart said she is “focused on getting my message out there about me, about what I’ve done as a state representative.”

Maggart ran a business of her own which closed down in 2008. She was the owner of Best Buy Carpet and Flooring Inc., in Madison, a company she closed when she couldn’t find a warehouse with a showroom she wanted to relocate to closer to home, she said.

Maggart dismissed any comparison of her own business closing and that of Rogers’ husband, calling them “very different.”

“My opponent, she campaigned on the idea of government staying out of her life, yet she didn’t mind asking government to stand between her and her creditors,” Maggart said.

Officials won’t comment on whether the Tennessee Ethics Commission has received a complaint on Rogers’ situation.

Although the bankruptcy was filed and discharged in 2005, the TEC doesn’t have a set definition of whether the ongoing filings since then qualify as “adjudication,” said Becky Bradley, the commission’s ethics specialist.

“It just has not come up before,” she said, adding that the commission would likely have to work with the Attorney General’s office to come up with a definition.

The commission keeps the content and number of filed ethics complaints secret. TEC has publicly considered five complaints since it was founded in 2006 and has thrown the rest out, according to Bradley. None resulted in a finding of an ethics violation.

But a Nashville bankruptcy attorney questioned whether the chain of events in Rogers’ case met the five-year test.

The late closing of the case had nothing to do with the actual ruling and liquidation, which was finished by 2005, says Edgar Rothschild, who was not involved in the case and reviewed the documents at the request of TNReport.

“I see nothing unusual about the fact that it was opened in 2005 and not closed until 2008,” he said. “The fact that the trustee took so long moving his paperwork along and disposing of the assets had nothing to do with the debtors. There is nothing in the report which indicated that the debtors did anything questionable.”

  • Josh Read

    Perhaps we need to hear the same attorneys who say the TN Constitution, which reads, “the judges of the Supreme Court and other inferior Courts shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State”; and that law actually means, “shall be selected to run opposed by the Governor of the State of Tennessee” can now say, that the 2006 Ethics Reform Act law which actually reads to disclose “any adjudication of a bankruptcy,” actually means disclose everything except the excercise of judicial authority involving the US Bankruptcy Trustee in a bankruptcy?

  • CCTiger

    This story, although begrudingly even handed, certainly misleads in its potrayal of some half-baked controversy, only later does it point out legally the discharge, thus the case was resolved in 2005, and glossing with little or no detail any Maggert business closure. Hmm,

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  • Amy Liorate

    I hear you CC. Someone with a business going sounds fishy if they claim to have closed it because they couldn’t find a warehouse/showroom. Best Buy was maybe 15 miles from Maggarts house. There are a lot of suitable places between that location and Hendersonville.

    Maggart probably closed her own business for one or more reasons:
    A. She wanted to become a career politician.
    B. The business wasn’t doing well and she had no option (very close to bankruptcy but without the Sept 11 event being a handy excuse). No one just closes a good operation, at least they’d sell it rather than completely shut down.
    C. Both A and B

  • John

    The fact that is demonstrated by this story is that Maggart was reportedly shopping this “controversy” to several news outlets and none, other than TNReport, seemed interested at all.

    What can also be gleamed from this report is that Maggart and/or her campaign advisors cannot or do not understand the simple report that lies at the very heart of this story. The report clearly speaks in terms of adjudication of (which is a court finding regarding someone’s status) or a discharge in bankruptcy. Either of those dates was in 2005 and thus outside the 5 year window. In fairness, Rogers was not required to report it but she does not deny it either.

    What Maggart is trying to mislead voters with is the date that the bankruptcy trustee and creditors concluded the work of dividing the Rogers’ assets among the creditors and otherwise administering the estate which was in 2008 and had nothing to do with WHEN the bankruptcy was determined to exist.

    You really have to question whether someone with no more common sense that Maggart demonstrates by pushing this story should even be allowed near a public office much less holding it.

  • Robert Armentrout

    Funny how Rep Maggart doesn’t want to comment and would rather get the word out about what she has done as a representative; it certainly didn’t stop her from getting her attack ads out about the “alleged” election violation.

    Funny…very funny.

  • Tony Gottlieb

    Definition
    Adjudication: The entry of a decree by a court in respect to a parties case.

    The rule regarding the required disclosure states: ANY adjudication, is to be reported.

    I’m no lawyer but I understand plain English.

  • Amy Liorate

    Update: July 17th

    In addition to what Mr. Armentrout says above, my friend says she got a robocall asserting that Rogers went bankrupt and will next drive the State of Tennessee into bankruptcy!

    Apparently Maggart, and/or her supporters, may be morally bankrupt. What ever the case it sure does look desperate for Maggart now if they have to carry misleading statements just to win a few votes. Pathetic scare tactics.

  • Donna DeSopo

    “Best Buy Carpet and Flooring Inc., in Madison, a company she closed when she couldn’t find a warehouse with a showroom she wanted to relocate to closer to home, she said.”

    Honestly, does anyone believe that line of BS? I am so glad others (besides TG) see through Mag’s lame lies and realize she is twisted and needs to go! The height of arrogance is that Mags believes “we the people” are so stupid to believe her nonsense! As Amy pointed out, Mags’ carpet place was a shorter commute from her house in H-ville than making the commute to the capitol (oh, yes, I forgot, Mags could not TAKE >$18K per diem of our tax payer money for a commute to her FAILED business). Hmm, Mag’s doesn’t seem to talk about a judgement filed against Best Buys October 21, 2005 that shows about 7 attempts to serve. Looks like the case finally went to court and the plaintiff won $3,800 judgement on May 22, 2007. So we can connect some dots here about how well that business was doing. Bottom line is Mags has ZERO integrity, which speaks to how she undermines conservative legislation behind the scenes. Besides, being a habitual liar and adulterous (not very Christian behavior) only adds to the “lack of TRUST” factor. Face it, Mags is running scared and desperate to keep a strangle hold on a seat that is not hers to hold. It is the people’s seat. Mags keeps throwing something against the wall in the hopes it will stick. Kudos to Amy for also pointing out Mag’s over the top assertion on her pathetic Robocall. It’s something 3 other primary voters opened up to me about….and of course, they early voted for Courtney 🙂 It looks like voters are putting Mags, the wayward politician, in her rightful place by voting for the RIGHT choice, Courtney Rogers, State Representative District #45. We will all breath a sigh of relief when Courtney wins August 2nd!

  • Donna De Sopo

    We the people were the big winners last night. Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers will be a great state representative!

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