A District Court lawsuit has set the stage for a legal battle involving prominent names in the Henderson community.
Longtime bank executive Selma Bartlett, namesake of a Henderson elementary school, filed a complaint on April 11 that alleges former Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson and his wife owe her about $763,000.
According to the lawsuit, James and Lora Lee Gibson "have defaulted on their loan obligations" while living in a luxury, guard-gated community.
"Despite repeated attempts by Ms. Bartlett to appeal to defendants’ sense of morality and financial responsibility, defendants have refused to make any reasonable effort to repay the loans she generously made to them," the document alleges. "Indeed, while Ms. Bartlett assisted Mr. Gibson during his time of need and professed desperation, he and his wife currently refuse to fully honor their commitment to Ms. Bartlett at a time when her health is exceedingly fragile and deteriorating."
Jim Gibson said he was served with Bartlett’s lawsuit on Sunday.
"I do owe her money and have not yet been able to pay fully what I owe her," he said.
He denied that he lives in a guard-gated community. He also said he does not "live a lifestyle of luxury."
Bartlett is represented by Ruth Cohen and Paul Padda, former assistant U.S. attorneys.
The lawsuit describes Bartlett as a widow who is in her 80s. According to the document, she came to Las Vegas in 1954 with her husband, who at the time was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. She also embarked on a career in the banking industry that year.
"In her capacity as a bank executive and committed member of the community, Ms. Bartlett played an instrumental role in the growth and development of Henderson," according to the lawsuit.
Jim Gibson served as mayor of Henderson from 1997 until 2009. In 2006, he sought the Democratic nomination for governor but was defeated in the primary.
In March 2004, according to the lawsuit, Jim Gibson asked Bartlett, a longtime friend, to loan him and his wife nearly $329,000 to purchase a lot at Lake Las Vegas.
The Gibsons asked Bartlett to make additional advances of nearly $103,000 in April 2005 and around $80,000 in September 2006, the lawsuit alleges.
"Mr. Gibson’s purpose in acquiring the two advancements (the first in 2005 and the second in 2006) was because he was financially unable to repay loans made to his general campaign fund," according to the complaint.
After that, the lawsuit alleges, the Gibsons made only "sporadic" payments to Bartlett.
In 2007, according to the document, the Gibsons asked Bartlett to loan them an additional $275,000.
"The Gibsons have failed to make a single principal payment on this note," according to the lawsuit, which alleges they made seven interest-only payments in 2008 that totaled about $8,000.
The lawsuit includes a breach of contract claim against both Jim Gibson and his wife. Claims against Jim Gibson include fraudulent/intentional misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In rendering certain promises, according to the document, Jim Gibson caused Bartlett "to extend a loan to him that no bank would make."
"Projecting himself to be a man of very high moral and religious convictions, Mr. Gibson convinced Ms. Bartlett to lend him a significant portion of her life savings," the lawsuit alleges.
Jim Gibson denied he defrauded Bartlett.