Lawsuit alleges 'rogue officers' turned governance at Des Plaines Islamic center into 'shambles'

By Scott Holland | Dec 2, 2016

Taking aim at “rogue officers,” a Des Plaines man has filed a complaint against two people whom he said “turned the corporate governance of the Islamic Community Center of Des Plaines into a shambles.” 

Taking aim at “rogue officers,” a Des Plaines man has filed a complaint against two people whom he said “turned the corporate governance of the Islamic Community Center of Des Plaines into a shambles.” 

Attorney Scott A. Berndtson, of Park Ridge, on Nov. 28 filed a memorandum of law in Cook County Circuit Court in support of the emergency motion for temporary restraining order filed earlier by his client, Dr. Aslam Ahmed Mohammed, who accused defendants Fazal Mahmood and Vikar Kidwai of “unauthorized use of power” over the Center that “is out of control.” 

Berndtson wrote Mahmood — identified as the Center president in local media coverage — and Kidwai have withdrawn $340,705.71 in cash from Center accounts “without authorization or adequate explanation,” failure to give the Center board or its members transparent access to financial records or to conduct elections. Berndtson and Mohammed also expressed concerns about an unauthorized, high-risk contract committing the Center’s facilities to an independent school “without regard to ICCD liability and in defiance of regard for proper corporate formalities.” 

According to the memorandum, Mahmood and Kidwai’s terms as Center officers expired several years ago, but “these rogue officers dictate through their pronouncements and actions that their decisions alone shall govern.” Such was the alleged frustration with the men’s purported actions the Center’s members convened a meeting where a majority voted to impeach both men and appoint an interim board to conduct an election. In response, the memorandum states, the defendants assert their “leadership is divine and the ‘mischief makers’ who would dare challenge them are being controlled by the devil. This is the iron wall (Mohammed) faces day in and day out.” 

Berndtson further notes Mahmood and Kidwai, and an attorney they hired, have threatened criminal prosecution in attempts to quash dissent and neutralize Mohammed’s civil action. Ultimately, he argued, the Center “has become nothing more than the alter egos of these rogue officers. The immediate issuance of an emergency restraining order is required under law to protect the status quo and to prevent the ongoing, and thus irreparable, harm” Mahmood and Kidwai are causing. 

The memorandum details the legal standards supporting Berndtson’s belief a restraining order is not just necessary but the only legally acceptable outcome. It notes how Mohammed demonstrated the Center’s nonprofit status and that, as board members, Mahmood and Kidwai owed “statutory and common law fiduciary duties and duties of loyalty,” as well as the ways in which the men continue to breach those duties and suppress attempts by other board and general members, to wrest control from the defendants. 

“More evidence supporting the allegations of malfeasance can only be procured through court-ordered discovery,” Berndtson wrote, specifically because Mahmood and Kidwai “have refused to provide the books and records.” As the alleged transgressions are presented as continuing, Berndtson argued, failing to grant a restraining order would allow further, irreparable injury. 

The Center, primarily a mosque, is at 480 Potter Road, Des Plaines. Published reports have indicated the center has caused concern in the past among neighbors and aldermen in the northwest suburb due to heavy vehicle traffic and parking needs at times for certain gatherings.

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Berndtson Law Islamic Community Center of Des Plaines

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