2011-04-07 / Local & State

Trust Says ‘Vendetta’ Prompted Complaint

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The multibillion- dollar charitable trust that controls The Hershey Co. is responding to allegations of financial impropriety, saying that a former board member who brought the case is motivated by a vendetta, has conflicts of interest and lacks standing to pursue the matter in court.

The Hershey Trust Co. filings in Dauphin County Orphans Court seek the dismissal of a case brought in February by Robert Reese that alleged widespread misconduct by trustees in their duties to the school for underprivileged children that the trust benefits.

The trust accuses Reese of harboring a “personal agenda and vendetta” stemming from his removal from the boards of the trust and the Milton Hershey School and says he was an integral part of the decision-making and approval process for many of the matters that he now alleges were improper.

The case arose a few months after the state attorney general’s office revealed that it was investigating transactions by the trust. The trust is cooperating with the investigation, making the lawsuit redundant and an unnecessary expense, the trust and school said.

Reese, a grandson of the man who created Reese’s peanut butter cups, told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that he is not surprised at the trust’s response.

“I refused to withdraw the petition, so their pursuing the path of making false personal attacks to deflect attention away from the substance of the matters in the petition was expected,” Reese told the newspaper. “I invite them to focus on the substance of what is in the petition.”

Reese has questioned the use of about $20 million in trust funds, including $12 million used to buy a golf course, and asserted that board members used the trust’s considerable assets to pad their bank accounts and treat themselves to luxury hotel stays and free golf.

Reese filed his case on Feb. 8, his last full day on the trust and school boards before the other members voted him off.

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