Final dissolution entered in Buske divorce, some personal property issues remain

Amelia Flood Feb. 19, 2010, 10:00am

The complex divorce of an Edwardsville couple that featured the intervention of the maker of Ziploc bags is all but over.

After a Friday hearing that stopped and started as attorneys conferred, Madison County Associate Judge Thomas Chapman entered the final dissolution judgment in the case, a trust/probate agreement setting aside funds for the children of Thomas and Sara Buske and an order releasing funds to the parties that had been agreed to under a December 2009 settlement.

Some personal property disputes between Thomas Buske and S.C. Johnson and Sons Inc. remain and may be settled at a future hearing. That hearing has not been set.

The Buske divorce began in June 2008.

Sara Buske filed for divorce from her husband of a decade after a Wisconsin civil court entered a judgment against him for $205.8 million.

S.C. Johnson brought the suit against Thomas Buske alleging he had defrauded the company of millions using inflated invoices from his trucking companies.

At the Feb.19 hearing, Thomas Buske's divorce attorney Vicki Cochran said Thomas Buske's position in that civil suit is that S.C. Johnson's own employees set the events in motion.

Thomas Buske faces federal charges in relation to the alleged fraud in Wisconsin. He has pleaded not guilty.

Sara Buske filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and mental cruelty.

S.C. Johnson intervened in the case, arguing it was a ploy to protect money Thomas Buske owed the company.

The parties announced the divorce settlement Dec. 1, 2009.

Under that settlement, S.C. Johnson receives all of Thomas Buske's companies and other business assets.

Sara Buske receives $325,000, the couple's Edwardsville home and $100,000 in personal property. Sara Buske also receives $50,000 in legal fees.

The couple's two children and Thomas Buske's child by a previous marriage receive $425,000 in trust.

Thomas Buske receives $50,000 in personal property and $200,000 for his legal fees.

Chapman previously heard objections in the case Feb. 11. Those objections dealt with monthly maintanence payments of $10,000 that Sara Buske received after the December settlement as well as objections raised by Thomas Buske's attorneys over legal fees they claim to be owed. Chapman ruled on both issues in an order six days later.

At the Feb. 19 hearing, Thomas Buske objected to the final dissolution order, arguing that he was not in full possession of some of his personal property. Specifically, Thomas Buske is seeking an antique tractor and an antique truck that he contends are family heirlooms.

Those items are currently in S.C. Johnson's possession, and Chapman questioned S.C. Johnson attorney Andrew Velloff at length about his client's position on the pieces.

"I don't know anything," Velloff told Chapman.

Chapman directed Velloff to contact his client during the hearing to find out the company's position and to clarify matters pertaining to the items.

"Go call your guy right now," Chapman ordered.

After conferring with his client's representative, Velloff told Chapman that S.C. Johnson viewed the vehicles as part of their settlement because the titles are in the name of Buske Lines, one of Thomas Buske's former companies.

"They intend to keep those vehicles," Velloff said.

Thomas Buske's attorney Christopher Byron told the court that the only reason for that was to maintain the antiques.

Chapman continued to question Velloff about the items, asking if S.C. Johnson wouldn't be willing to give Thomas Buske the pair of vehicles, considering it had taken nearly all of his other assets.

"Do I sum it up or not?" Chapman asked. "The point is they took substantial assets and all he's asking for are his uncle's tractor and his old truck?"

After more discussions and arguments on the matter, Chapman ordered that the items be towed at Thomas Buske's expense to a location of his choosing and inform S.C. Johnson of the location. Chapman said the matter could be resolved at a future hearing.

The parties then spent additional time modifying the various orders in the case before Chapman signed them shortly before 3:30 p.m. Friday.

A copy of the final dissolution judgment was not available immediately following the hearing.

Thomas Buske is represented in the divorce by Cochran, Bryon and Richard Mieves.

Sara Buske is represented by Dennis Orsey, Howard Feldman and others.

S.C. Johnson is represented by Velloff, Michael Foster and Thomas Keefe Jr.

The Buske children are represented by Goldenberg.

Chapman took over the case from Madison County Associate Judge Duane Bailey in 2009 after Bailey was reassigned to juvenile court.

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