If Republican Michele Rollins had won the 2010 race for Delaware's at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, she immediately would have been one of the wealthiest lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
So what is the public to make of court documents that show Michele Rollins took affirmative steps to ensure that two of her grandchildren would wind up on food stamps in Alabama?
The documents are from a divorce case that Sherry Carroll Rollins filed in Greenville, South Carolina, against Ted Rollins, the son of the late multimillionaire businessman John W. Rollins. Michele Rollins was John Rollins' third wife and the heiress to his fortune. That makes her Ted Rollins' stepmother and the step-grandmother to his two daughters.
The girls, now teen-agers, live in Birmingham with their mother, Sherry Rollins--and all three of them are on food stamps, thanks to bizarre machinations in a divorce case that was litigated for roughly three years in one state before unlawfully being moved to another.
Ted Rollins now is the CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a company that completed a $380-million IPO and has developed roughly 30 student-housing projects at universities across the country. Before Campus Crest became a hot topic on Wall Street, Ted Rollins managed to get the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case moved from South Carolina to Alabama, where Sherry Rollins and her daughters were forced to flee--after Ted Rollins failed to keep up court-ordered payments on their home.
D. Al Crowson, a circuit judge in Shelby County, Alabama, granted Ted Rollins a stunningly favorable divorce judgment--based largely on Rollins' sworn statement in a child-support document that he made roughly $50,000 a year, all from a mortgage company in Brentwood, Tennessee. The CS-41 document included no mention of Campus Crest, St. James Capital LLC, the Crescent Center, or other ventures related to the Rollins family.
South Carolina judges found that Ted Rollins belongs to one of America's wealthiest families, but he got away in Alabama with portraying himself as a regular "working Joe"--one who just happens to have multiple private jets. That largely explains why his ex wife and two daughters now are on food stamps.
But that's not the whole story. South Carolina court documents show that Michele Rollins also played a role in making sure that Alabama members of her family tree would live barely above the poverty line.
Those documents show that an original pendente lite order required Ted Rollins to pay a total of $8,355 in monthly child support and alimony. That came after early evidence in the case showed that Rollins lived a high-end lifestyle and was a member of an extremely wealthy family, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control. Upon reconsideration by the court, Rollins' monthly obligation was reduced to $4,500 in unallocated family support.
Rollins still was not happy with that amount. He went back before the court to argue that even the second pendente lite order was excessive. In a contempt order dated October 17, 2002, South Carolina Family Court Judge Robert N. Jenkins Sr. discussed Ted Rollins' efforts to reduce his family support further:
[Mr. Rollins] also presented evidence that he is among nine (9) contingent remainders to his deceased father's marital trust estate and that his access to this possible source of funds is permanently restricted to the discretion of his deceased father's widow who does not intend to give him an advance.
The "deceased father's widow" would be Michele Rollins--and the South Carolina document indicates she controlled the marital trust estate of the late John W. Rollins. The document also indicates that Michele Rollins flatly refused a request from Ted Rollins to access funds to help pay his child-support obligations. (See page 6 of 11 in the full contempt order at the end of this post.)
I don't pretend to be a matrimonial lawyer, but this information raises several troubling questions:
* Was it lawful for Michele Rollins to deny access to funds that apparently belonged to Ted Rollins, through his father's estate? The court indicates that Ted Rollins was seeking an "advance," not a handout. It seems clear that he was entitled to these funds, and he needed them to pay child support. What lawful grounds did Michele Rollins have for denying access?
* Courts tend to treat child-support obligations with the utmost seriousness. Child support, for example, cannot be released in a bankruptcy case. So why was Michele Rollins apparently allowed to put a hold on funds that were needed to pay court-ordered child support?
* Was Sherry Rollins' lawyer in South Carolina asleep at the switch when he apparently let this go without questioning it?
* Is Michele Rollins the kind of woman who would rather let her grand kids go on food stamps than slightly loosen her iron grip on the marital trust estate? In her political statements, Michele Rollins indicates she is a conservative who believes in limited government. Why then, did she not take reasonable steps to ensure that members of her own family would not need government assistance?
|Rose Hall Resort in Jamaica|
By the way, just how wealthy is Michele Rollins? She apparently is wealthy enough that she tries to deceive the public about certain sources of income. Politico reported in August 2010 that Rollins dumped a substantial investment in Venezuela's state-owned oil company as she was preparing paperwork for her Congressional run. That article went on to shine considerable light on Michele Rollins' assets:
The Venezuelan state-owned oil entity is hardly the only of Rollins's assets. Should she be elected to Congress, Rollins would immediately become one of Washington's wealthiest lawmakers. Her assets are worth between $90 million and $350 million, placing her in the financial neighborhood of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry (worth at least $184 million) and California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (worth at least $156 million).
Rollins's financial portrait is large and complex. It includes assets as varied as municipal bonds, a beachfront resort in Jamaica and a hotel and casino in Delaware. She has as much as $50,000 in oil-drilling contractor Schlumberger Limited, more than a $250,000 in Citigroup equity, at least $5 million each in Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment and Dover Motorsports and at least $1 million in Rose Hall Resort in Jamaica. Rollins also derives income from several dozen separate oil and gas ventures.
A woman with all of those oil and gas investments--not to mention interests in resorts, gaming, and motorsports--has grandchildren on food stamps? I sent Michele Rollins several questions via e-mail regarding her role in the Rollins divorce case. She failed to respond.
This might be a good time to illustrate why I have called Rollins v. Rollins "the most blatant example of courtroom corruption in a civil matter that I've uncovered." As noted above, Sherry Rollins started out with $8,355 in monthly support--and that was from a pendente lite, which is a temporary order issued while litigation is pending. That figure could have gone higher based on full discovery of the marital assets.
Sherry Rollins wound up receiving $1,315 a month from an Alabama court that had no lawful jurisdiction over her case--and she received virtually nothing from marital assets that accumulated over 14 years of marriage to Ted Rollins.
That's why Sherry Rollins and her daughters qualify for food stamps. And we now know that Michele Rollins was not a clueless bystander while this gross injustice took place. She helped make it happen.
Ted Rollins Contempt Order