She was a strong-willed, high-powered Houston
trial lawyer who once listened only to classical music.
He was a British rock musician who once
thrilled audiences with his blues-rock beat.
It's unlikely that the paths of Mae Nacol and
Ronnie Lane would ever have crossed had it not been for one factor - both
suffered from multiple sclerosis.
Now an argument over money to fight this
debilitating physical condition has thrown them into a bitter dispute that
has reached the state attorney general's office.
A state investigation is under way into what
has become of the more than $1 million raised mainly by rock concerts for
the Houston-based Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis (ARMS) of
Lane and his Scottish physician, Dr. Phillip
James, requested the investigation. They claim that Nacol, as director of
the group, has mismanaged the funds that Lane donated to start ARMS here in
1984. A spokesman for the attorney general's office in Austin says the
charity's officials have been accused of ``self-dealing.'' Highlights from
the records show:
Of the original $1.1 million raised in the
1983 U.S. tour by a cast of British rock stars and $66,700 more in 1985
income, ARMS financial records show only $65,920 given to Texas A&M
University for research, paid in two checks in May 1985.
The largest expenditures during the period
from November 1984 through October 1985, totaling at least $206,202 for
legal fees, salary and reimbursement for expenses and entertainment, went to
Mae Nacol. Barbara Leigh Hunt Nacol, who Mae Nacol originally represented as
her sister but now says was only a close family friend, received $71,557.
Barbara Nacol is a former president of ARMS.
At least $43,500 went to several advertising
and public relations firms, including Smyth & Katzen and Coco
Almost $500 was spent for six volumes of
various editions of ``Who's Who''. Subscriptions to publications ranging
from Rolling Stone, People, the Washington Monitor and daily newspapers were
paid from ARMS funds.
Lane, who frequently uses a wheelchair, also
received money from ARMS and paid rent and salary for an assistant to help
with his care.
N.R. ``Ray'' Ashley, a member of the ARMS
executive membership committee, was paid $23,213 for services.
A local attorney was paid a salary from ARMS
while she was associated with Nacol's law firm.
Nacol has claimed that an audit performed
last fall by the local accounting firm of Stinson, Robertson, Layne and Co.,
showed no wrongdoing.
Robert A. Levit, the CPA who performed the
audit, said Saturday he could not comment beyond the standard letter saying the analysis
had been prepared from the unadjusted general ledger. Generally,
accountants don't judge the propriety of expenditures; instead, they make
sure accepted accounting principles were followed.
No one involved has been able to pinpoint any
specific incident that caused the rift in the ARMS group. Lane said earlier
he became suspicious when an old Lincoln-Continental limousine that Nacol
owned and which he described as a piece of trash was sold to USA-ARMS for
However, Stanley Jacobiwsky, an engineer from
Bethlehem, Pa., who was on the ARMS board until February, generally
described a falling out between Lane, Mae Nacol and Barbara Nacol that first
surfaced at a board meeting last September.
He described an acrimonious session in which
insults were hurled. ``I got down there for the board meeting when everyone
started yelling at each other.'' Jacobiwsky, who said he met Nacol when he
helped her install the hyperbaric oxygen chambers at the HBO centers four
years ago, said he never saw any receipts or authorizations for
``People were just passing pieces of paper
around. It was a real Chinese fire drill.''
He says he requested the audit to determine
whether there was any wrongdoing.
Jacobiwsky said he knew of no board
authorization to purchase the Lincoln or a Cherokee Chief Jeep, which Lane
said ARMS purchased for $9,000, and only heard about these purchases later.
``I didn't know we were in the car
business,'' said Jacobiwsky.
Even though he resigned from the board in
February because of distance from his home, Jacobiwsky still admires Nacol.
``I love her very dearly,'' he said. ``She's a fantastic lady.''
No other board members, either present or
former, could be reached for comment, nor could Nacol.