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Family Owners Wrangle Over Homer’s Restaurant

4 min read

The popular Homer’s Restaurant in east Little Rock is at the center of a complicated family feud pitting the daughter of the restaurant’s founder against her two brothers.

Katrina Connell Vaughn has sued her older brother, Robert Connell; his wife, Alicia Ford Connell; younger brother, David Connell; and DC Group Inc., which operates Homer’s West Restaurant in west Little Rock. The three siblings are the children of Homer Connell, who opened Homer’s Restaurant in 1986, and his widow, Remedios or “Remy.”

Homer Connell died June 17 at age 73.

“This is an unfortunate family dispute in which two elderly parents — a mother who has long been incapacitated and a father who is recently deceased — have been taken advantage of by certain family members in an effort to improperly assert control over their finances and property,” said Vaughn’s suit, filed last month in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Vaughn, of Little Rock, alleges that her brothers are “acting directly contrary to their parents’ wishes” as expressed in a series of estate planning documents. She asks the court “to stop the misappropriation and diversion of assets” and re-establish Vaughn as trustee of her parents’ trusts and the person in charge of finances and health care for her mother, who is in a nursing home. The lawsuit also says that the brothers are excluding Vaughn from her rightful role in running Homer’s Restaurant, at 2001 E. Roosevelt Road, and in receiving a share of profits from Homer’s West, at 9700 N. Rodney Parham Road.

It also alleges that brother Robert Connell replaced his sister’s power of attorney for their mother with a “bogus” power of attorney that was the product of “fraud, duress, coercion, undue influence, and procurement.”

Vaughn’s lawsuit details a sad story of parental and sibling estrangement and the decline of the parents.

The lawsuit says that father Homer Connell, after having taken issue with Vaughn’s care of her mother, sought to remove her as trustee of a family trust.

Homer Connell, “in a questionable state of mind,” also wrote a codicil to his will in February 2016, shortly before his death, seeking to remove Vaughn as his representative and instead naming David, as well as seeking to prevent Vaughn from inheriting anything from her father’s estate, the suit says.

Vaughn “was never made aware of much less provided with the secretly-created First Codicil until well after Homer’s death,” the suit says.

A Matter of Control
Vaughn had worked at Homer’s since 1991, “handling its books, records, and generally managing the operation including but not limited to ordering and serving food and waiting on tables,” according to the lawsuit. It also says that Vaughn is the full owner of RK&D Inc., the corporation that operates Homer’s.

“Defendants have excluded her from the restaurant and to Katrina’s knowledge no corporate tax return has been filed for 2015, which obviously needs to take place,” the suit says.

Robert Connell was long estranged from his parents and was intentionally excluded as their beneficiary in estate planning documents executed in 2014, the suit says. However, the lawsuit says, Robert Connell and his wife, Alicia, are now “in partial control of and operating the restaurant despite the fact that neither one of them is an owner or officer of the entity.”

The suit alleges that the couple have had numerous disputes with the IRS and the state of Arkansas over “taxes, liens, judgments, and other indebtedness, to the extent that tax returns have been filed in recent years at all.”

As for Homer’s West, Vaughn’s lawsuit says that David Connell is president and Vaughn is vice president and that as “a practical matter, she helped her brother David get the restaurant off the ground and turn it into the successful enterprise that it is today.”

Vaughn and David Connell agreed to a split of Homer’s West profits with Vaughn to get 70 percent and David 30 percent, the suit says.

“However, she received virtually no compensation for her work and she consequently was forced to walk away from the business after three years,” the suit says.

Vaughn’s lawsuit seeks to invalidate Robert Connell’s power of attorney over their mother, to confirm that Vaughn remains the trustee of two family trusts and to return control of Homer’s Restaurant to Vaughn.

Vaughn also says David Connell and DC Group never got permission to use Homer’s name for the purposes of Homer’s West and asks the court to force them to adopt a new name, something like “David’s Restaurant.”

Calls to David and Robert Connell were not returned by press time.

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