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Sikhs ask pairing of lawsuits.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

Ministers of the Sikh community founded by Yogi Bhajan who have sued managers of Golden Temple and other Sikh businesses filed a motion Tuesday asking that their lawsuit be paired with one filed last month by Oregon Attorney General John Kroger.

Kroger's lawsuit was sealed so its contents have not been made public.

The "motion to consolidate" was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, where both lawsuits had been filed.

Consolidating the cases "would be more efficient for everyone involved because the factual and legal issues are similar," said attorney John McGrory, who is representing the group of Sikh ministers.

Attorney Gary Roberts represents the members of "Unto Infinity," the four-member board charged with overseeing the community's businesses after Yogi Bhajan died. They are Kartar Singh Khalsa, Golden Temple CEO, Sopurkh Kaur Khalsa, Peraim Kaur Khalsa and Siri Karm Kaur Khalsa.

The four are defendants in both the ministers' lawsuit and the attorney general's lawsuit.

When asked about the motion to consolidate, Roberts said his clients aren't going "to worry about it too much" as long as two concerns are addressed.

They don't want the motion to delay the trial, which is set for April. And the attorney general's complaint is a bit broader than McGrory's complaint, so there needs to be reasonable protection so McGrory's clients won't get access to documents they have no legal right to, Roberts said.

"We feel pretty strongly that the community would be better off having the trial as soon as possible and get it resolved, so the community can start being put back together again, so it can feel there's been a full airing of the facts," he said.

The attorney general's office filed its lawsuit on Oct. 7 "under seal," meaning the public cannot access it and the parties are forbidden to share details about it until at least Nov. 7, barring further action from the court.

McGrory cited a summary of the lawsuit by Courthouse News, a national news service, that was briefly made public as grounds that the two lawsuits should be consolidated.

"Both actions arise out of the wrongful taking of assets belonging to the Sikh Dharma religious community and to the breach of fiduciary duties by the defendants, named in both actions, following the death in 2004 of the Siri Singh Sahib, the leader of the Sikh Dharma community in the United States," the motion said. Siri Singh Sahib is another name for Yogi Bhajan.

Consolidating the two suits also would "conserve judicial resources and avoid inconsistent results," the motion said.

The defendants named in both cases include the four members of Unto Infinity, and the six members of Golden Temple Management: Kartar Singh Khalsa, CEO; Karam Singh Khalsa, CFO; Ajeet Singh Khalsa, operations director; Guru Hari Singh Khalsa, R&D director; Robert Ziehl, marketing manager; and Gurudhan Singh Khalsa, sales manager based in California.

In their lawsuit, the ministers allege that in a 2007 corporate restructuring, the defendants transferred 90 percent of Golden Temple - then controlled by Siri Singh Sahib Corp., a religious nonprofit - to Golden Temple Management, the group of six company managers, including Kartar Khalsa.

In May, the defendants sold Golden Temple's cereal division, with 90 percent of the net proceeds going to Golden Temple Management, rather than to the Sikh Dharma family of companies, according to the ministers' fourth amended complaint filed Sept. 21.

The ministers allege that the transfer of ownership and the channeling of 90 percent of the proceeds from the cereal sale to the group of Golden Temple managers "were breaches of the defendants' fiduciary duties as trustees of assets held in trust for the benefit of the Sikh Dharma religion."

The attorney general's complaint also alleges breach of fiduciary duty, according to the Courthouse News summary, the motion said.
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Title Annotation:Business; Ministers want their complaint against Golden Temple managers combined with a state legal action
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 3, 2010
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