Abilene City Hall is taking seriously a threat from a man to confiscate more than $1 billion in computers and other city property as repayment for a 1989 house demolition - even if the amount raised eyebrows.
"We don't have nearly that many computers," City Attorney Sharon Hicks said.
On Wednesday, Hicks e-mailed city employees advising them of the warning from "Mr. Allan Douglas Fountain, now known as Al-Yahnai Fountain Hawkins."
Hicks cautioned employees to alert an official if anyone called or arrived in person requesting city property. So far Fountain has not attempted to take any property, Hicks said. The city issued a cease-and-desist order against him.
"Right now we are just proceeding with the alert until he takes more steps," Hicks said.
The dispute stems from the 1989 demolition of Fountain's house at 600 Virgil St., located off T&P Lane, where the House of Yahweh headquarters is located. The religious sect, labeled a cult by some, was started by former Abilene police officer Bill Hawkins, now known as Yisrayl Hawkins. Many of Hawkins' followers changed their last name to match his.
A House of Yahweh spokeswoman said she did not know Allan Douglas Fountain or Al-Yahnai Fountain Hawkins but would ask him to return a reporter's phone call if he was located.
The phone call was not returned. Neither name is listed in the Abilene phone book.
Hicks said that in 1989, before she became city attorney, Fountain filed suit against the city. His house had been condemned in January of that year and demolished. Fountain was ordered by the city to remove the rubble.
Hicks said the house had burned, and the city cleared the lot when Fountain failed to.
Fountain's suit was filed in state district court, but was transferred to federal court, Hicks said, because one part of it alleged the city did not follow due process, a constitutional issue.
The suit alleged the due process issue arose when the city failed to "properly declare the house a nuisance," Hicks said. In 1991, U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings issued a summary judgment in the city's favor, dismissing the suit.
The suit also alleged an "action for slander of title" because the city filed a lien on the property to pay for its removal. It also claimed the city trespassed on Fountain's property. The entire suit was dismissed in Cummings' order, Hicks said.
Recently, Fountain began sending letters to the city requesting information on employees from 1989 such as bank account numbers, Hicks said, but the city did not respond.
Hicks said the city is not taking extra precautions other than alerting employees. Most of the city's vehicles are police cars, Hicks said, which would be difficult to steal. Heavy equipment operators were sent a memo advising them of Fountain's threat to take city property.
"We continue to take the same safeguards we normally do," Hicks said