Texas legislator faces estate abuse allegations, close election

Freshman Paula Pierson’s Legal Issues Impact Race Against Republican Bill Burch
Jim Cardle
September 17, 2008
TexasInsider.org
http://www.texasinsider.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=4649
The Democrat incumbent in Texas House District 93, Paula Pierson, is currently being challenged by Republican Bill Burch. The task of unseating the incumbent is beginning to look more likely as her activities, and those of her husband, attorney Grey Pierson, become public.

Analysis of Pierson’s voting record reveals she missed much of her first and only legislative Session in 2007 – absent and not voting on 491 recorded floor votes, while also missing 55% of votes cast in the Human Services Committee, and 57% of those taken in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the two committees on which she served.

Many in HD 93 base their displeasure with Pierson’s short tenure in office upon her lack of involvement in Austin during Session.  Many believe her and husband Grey Pierson’s now-disputed relationship & financially lucrative lawsuits against the Bob Arlington family to be the main reason for her lack of activity in Austin. After Arlington had a stroke early in 2007, and was subsequently hospitalized prior to his death, a March 24, 2008 press story stated “former friends and allies of state Rep. Paula Pierson, D-Arlington, allege the freshman lawmaker and her husband improperly gained control of their family’s estate, touching off a bitter dispute that could reverberate in the November elections.

“At issue: Businessman Robert Arlington, who died last year, left his entire estate to his friend and attorney Grey Pierson, records show. Grey and Rep. Paula Pierson were named executor and successor executor, respectively, of the estate.”

The State Bar of Texas’ attorney rules make it a disbarrable offense for a practicing attorney to make themselves the beneficiary, or executor of, the wills they write.

Should a grievance be filed with the State Bar of Texas, it could lead to the disbarment of Grey Pierson.

Since the time of the filing of the lawsuit, it has come to light that the Pierson’s were also the beneficiaries of one of Mr. Arlington’s life insurance policies, giving them more than $350,000. They are also suing the now-court appointed administrator of Arlington’s estate, Robert Gieb, for in excess of $45,000 in attorney’s fees. Pierson sued the court assigned attorney of the estate for his legal fees in a prior representation.

Prior to his death Bob Arlington signed a new will naming Grey Pierson – who, as a former real estate partner & legal advisor, wrote Arlington’s new will – and Paula Pierson as the Executors of his Estate, as well as Grey Pierson as the sole Beneficiary of the estate. Bob Arlington died February 11, 2007.

Paula Pierson claims Bob Arlington signed the new will because he was estranged from his children.

Sources, including Arlington’s sons, have publically denied or allege this claim to be untrue.  In a partial summary judgment issued October 26, 2007, the Probate Court Judge ruled  that the new will was not valid.

At this time the damages portion of the lawsuit is still in the court. The attorney representing the Pierson’s has attempted to have the trial postponed until after her November election vs. Republican Burch.

Internal polling numbers show Burch & Pierson virtually tied in the race, with Burch supported by 35.6% of the district’s voters, to Pierson’s 33.9%.

Representative Pierson was ranked last (181 out of 181 House & Senate members) by the Texas Association of Business (TAB), garnering her the position of having the most anti-business voting record in the 2007 Legislature.  Pierson often represents herself as being pro-business, leading many voters in HD 93 to be critical of her claims.

American’s for Prosperity, a statewide taxpayer watchdog group, also gave her an “F” – the only Tarrant County legislator to receive that ranking – as the least business & taxpayer-friendly legislator in the State House.  Voters are now questioning Pierson’s campaign promises to be a fiscal conservative, representative of the district.

If filed, a State Bar grievance could be decided before the November election. If so, Pierson will have numerous questions to respond to during the final weeks of the election.

Paula Pierson, formally known as Paula Hightower, was once hired by Bob Arlington as a Real Estate Agent. During this period, Paula became friends with Arlington and his two sons, Greg & Grant. After re-marrying, Pierson left the Real Estate business, but retained her friendship with Bob Arlington.

When she decided to run for Texas State Representative, Bob Arlington and his sons, Grant and Greg Arlington, volunteered to help her and contributed to her campaign. Pierson won her race by a slim 587 vote margin, something that may or may not have happened without the efforts of the Arlington family.

According to court records, while Bob Arlington “was unconscious after suffering a stroke, Pierson (meaning Grey Pierson) received a commission due to Decedent (Arlington) on the sale of property and deposited those funds into his bank account. Pierson did not have authority to take possession of those funds.”

“Pierson supervised the closing of the sale through his title company. Had it not been closed through his title company, he would not have had access to those funds.”

Why did she claim that the grieving children (who previously supported her) were on bad terms with their father? Why did Arlington leave the estate to his attorney?

How did the Pierson’s obtain life insurance in their name? This is a civil lawsuit; was a crime committed?

These and other questions are sure to haunt Pierson. Grey Pierson says he was also left a “substantial” amount of money from a bank account and life insurance proceeds that weren’t part of Arlington’s will.

Pierson and her husband, longtime attorney Grey Pierson, expect to give sworn depositions in the case, scheduled for trial next month, but possibly facing a delay.

Freshman Rep. Pierson in nasty dispute with former allies
Jay Root, PoliTex/Star-Telegram.com
March 24, 2008
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
http://startelegram.typepad.com/politex/2008/03/freshman-rep-pi.html
Former friends and allies of state Rep. Paula Pierson, D-Arlington, allege the freshman lawmaker and her husband improperly gained control of their family’s estate, touching off a bitter dispute that could reverberate in the November elections.

Pierson and her husband, longtime attorney Grey Pierson, expect to give sworn depositions in the case, scheduled for trial next month but possibly facing a delay.

At issue: Businessman Robert Arlington, who died last year, left his entire estate to his friend and attorney Grey Pierson, records show. Grey and Rep. Paula Pierson were named executor and successor executor, respectively, of the estate. Grey Pierson says he was also left a “substantial” amount of money from a bank account and life insurance proceeds that weren’t part of Arlington’s will.

Rep. Pierson told PoliTex the case is a “sad deal” involving two men who were bitterly estranged from their father. The deceased businessman had given Paula Pierson $500 for her successful 2006 race.

And Greg Arlington, who named both Paula and Grey in his lawsuit (filed jointly with his brother, Grant), gave her $250. Pierson, running for a second term, faces Republican Bill Burch in November.

The freshman lawmaker said she doesn’t want to oversee Arlington’s estate and doesn’t want her old friend’s money. But after getting hit with an unexpected lawsuit, she said her husband would probably fight to keep the bank account and life insurance proceeds.

“They lied to us, then they filed the lawsuit,’’ she said. “And no, Grey probably will never give it to them.’’

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