SAN ANTONIO (WVUE) - A judge in Texas called both attorneys into his chambers to give his decision about whether to continue a freeze on the Shirley Benson trust. When the attorneys came out, they said the judge has appointed former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger to assist parties in solving the issue, according to our partners at Nola.com | The Times-Picayune.
The temporary restraining order will remain in place until the judge makes a ruling. The judge did not rule on the request for a preliminary injunction against Tom Benson. It is unclear if Hardberger will issue recommendations.
Hardberger was mayor when San Antonio city leaders tried to lure the New Orleans Saints to Texas after Hurricane Katrina.
In day two of the hearing, one of Tom Benson's business partners told a Texas judge the billionaire said he was having a lot of family problems. He took the stand Thursday morning as the Benson power struggle played out in a San Antonio courtroom.
This is the second day of a hearing. Tom Benson is the trustee. This trust includes car dealerships, banks, and real estate in Texas. It does not include the Saints and Pelicans.
The judge heard from Rick Hood, who is general manager of Mercedes-Benz of San Antonio. He said he considers Benson a mentor.
"He told me he was unhappy with some things his daughter was doing," Hood testified. Benson said Hood was the only person in San Antonio he trusted, according to testimony.
Hood said he has talked to Tom Benson every day since Christmas.
Earlier, the judge heard from Danny Buck, the president and CEO of Lone Star Bank, one of the holdings in trust. Buck testified he also talks regularly with Tom Benson and that the two have spoken at least a dozen times since January.
He said in December, the Saints owner called and asked him if his deposits in the bank were safe. He mentioned some problems with his family and to let him know if anything unusual was happening with his accounts. Buck said Benson then moved $25 million out of the bank.
"Tom said he would move money back once he had five board members of Lone Star capital removed: Renee Benson, Rita and Ryan Leblanc, Tom Roddy and Bill McCandless," Buck testified.
The only thing that prevented Tom Benson from removing five of 10 board members was the court's temporary restraining order.
Bennett Btahl, the attorney for the family, asked if that would have been a good thing to remove the board members.
"It's never good to have a disruptive board. We have other board members that remain, but no, I don't think it's a good thing," Buck replied.
Earlier, Benson's personal bookkeeper, Mary Polensky, said back in December, Benson called her and asked her to find them a new office and to take all of their files and pictures with her.
She said Benson told her, "I'm just tired of them using you to get information."
The judge said he would like to hear from Benson, but it appears that will not happen.
FOX 8 is owned by Tom Benson, but managed by Raycom Media.