Former chair of Black Tie sued, resigns from board
Pamela Lynn Clayton, a former co-chair for Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner, reportedly resigned from the LGBT fundraiser’s advisory board this week amid allegations in a civil lawsuit that she conspired to defraud her partner’s employer.
Clayton’s partner, 55-year-old Patricia Jean Vining, was convicted in July of first-degree felony theft and sentenced to five years in prison for stealing more than $2 million from the Dallas Ophthalmology Center, where Vining worked from 1989 until 2005, according to court records.
No criminal charges have been filed against Clayton, and a Dallas County prosecutor said this week that there is not sufficient evidence to do so. However, the Dallas Ophthalmology Center filed a civil lawsuit against Clayton in August alleging that she conspired with Vining to defraud the company.
"All the money that was stolen went into their joint accounts and was used to pay for a large mansion in Highland Park that they co-owned," said Charles W. McGarry, the attorney representing Dallas Ophthalmology Center. "She [Clayton] was not just a passive beneficiary."
The lawsuit against Clayton includes an affidavit signed by the president of the Dallas Ophthalmology Center, James A. Bentley Jr. In the affidavit, Bentley alleges that Vining was depositing stolen money into at least six bank accounts held jointly by Vining and Clayton. One of the accounts bore the name of another company Bentley founded, Physician’s Transportation Service.
"During the [Vining’s] criminal trial, I saw a loan application signed by Pamela Clayton in 2004, in which she claimed to be the president of PTS [Physician’s Transportation Service], and that she was paid approximately $30,000 per month by PTS," Bentley’s affidavit states. "I saw no other source of income for Ms. Clayton on the application. I never elected Ms. Clayton to be an officer of PTS, and never authorized her to act on behalf of PTS. The criminal trial in July 2008 was the first time that I had seen evidence that Pamela Lynn Clayton had directly received money stolen from DOC [Dallas Ophthalmology Center] and had participated in the theft."
Clayton didn’t respond to a phone message left with her attorney, Howard Marc Spector. Spector declined to discuss the lawsuit in detail but suggested that the plaintiff has a "vendetta."
An official from Black Tie, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Clayton resigned from the event’s Advisory Board on Wednesday, Oct. 15 - a day after Dallas Voice began its investigation. The Black Tie official said Clayton’s resignation had not been requested.
On Tuesday, current Black Tie Co-Chair Randy Ray issued a statement saying it would be inappropriate to comment on the lawsuit against Clayton.
"We are not involved in these proceedings and do not believe that they are related in any way to Black Tie," Ray said in the statement. "We do not believe Black Tie has any reason to be concerned that these proceedings might affect Black Tie. Pam Clayton is a member of Black Tie’s Advisory Board. She is a longtime, valued member of both the Black Tie board and advisory board and supporter of Black Tie. Jean Vining does not have any affiliation with Black Tie other than as Pam Clayton’s partner."
Patricia Jean Vining
Ray said Clayton served on the advisory board, made up of past members of the event’s board of directors, for the last three years. She served a two-year term as Black Tie co-chair from 2004-05 and spent approximately six years on the board of directors, Ray said.
Ray said advisory board members, who are elected to two-year terms by the board of directors, have no legal authority and do not vote. Advisory board members typically attend some or all meetings of the board of directors and may serve on event committees, he added.
McGarry said if the lawsuit against Clayton is successful, it’s possible Black Tie would have to forfeit any personal monetary contributions received from Vining and Clayton. According to Black Tie’s Web site, Vining and Clayton were Ruby sponsors in 2005, 2006 and 2007, meaning they raised more than $6,500 for the event in each of those years.
Ray noted that Black Tie sponsorships typically include funds raised from other sources. He said he was unsure how much Vining and Clayton had contributed to the event personally.
"If there is any inquiry, we’ll certainly deal with that and be cooperative and open about it," Ray said.
Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner, held each November, is one of the largest fundraisers in the nation benefiting LGBT organizations. Last year, the event distributed $1.27 million to 19 beneficiaries.