Judge Certifies Results Of Buddhist Election

By John Lyon, Times Record, September 19, 2006

Fort Smith, Arkansas (USA) -- The results of a court-ordered election at a Fort Smith Buddhist temple have been certified by a Sebastian County judge.

Circuit Judge James Marschewski has issued an order confirming the results of a Sept. 10 election held at Wat Buddha Samakitham, 4625 Armour St. Temple members elected the following people to the temple’s board of directors: Oukham Khatthachanh, Bounsa Sisoukrath, Sam Siriphounsavath, Souvankham Phatthon, Nouchanh Sorluangsana, Nong Maymoundok and Lattana Chounelamany.
The order also states that the duties of Brad Jesson, whom Marschewski previously appointed as special master in the temple dispute, are “dissolved, with the gratitude of the court.”

Marschewski’s order directs First National Bank, which he previously placed in temporary control of the temple’s assets, to turn over control of those assets to the newly elected directors.

The dispute at the temple first landed in court in June 2005, when a group of temple members filed a civil suit alleging that the temple’s abbot, Phra Sangob Parisanto, and several other temple members were trying to take control of the temple from the duly elected board of directors, in violation of bylaws that had been in effect since 1989.

Parisanto and 11 other people filed a cross complaint that accused the plaintiffs of violating temple bylaws that were passed in 1992, superseding the 1989 bylaws.

At a hearing in May, Marschewski ruled that the 1989 bylaws were the only valid bylaws and ordered that an election be held to choose a new board of directors. He later appointed Jesson, a Fort Smith lawyer and former Arkansas Supreme Court justice who served as a special master in the Lake View school funding case, to oversee the election.

The court rulings and election pertain only to Wat Buddha Samakitham; no other Buddhist temples in the area have been involved in the dispute.