Judge upholds takeover of athletic club

Nearly two months after an administrative shakeup at the Grand Junction Athletic Club and Day Spa and Salon, a judge has upheld Vicky Thurlow’s takeover of the business from Brad Willms and Willms’ attorney has withdrawn from the case.

Thurlow, who sold the business to Willms in 2004, used a court order to take back possession of the athletic club Nov. 6 after Willms failed to pay rent.

Willms was angered by the takeover, saying Thurlow changed the locks and fired some of his employees.

Willms’ attorney, Michael Grattan, filed a motion the day of the change in ownership, claiming that Willms falling behind on rent did not constitute a default on the contract between him and
Thurlow. Grattan insisted that Willms was working with the owner of the building, the Boesch Living Trust, to catch up on the payments.

Grattan also claimed that someone other than Thurlow should have been appointed the receiver of the business to ensure “an unbiased receivership.”

“Thurlow and Willms have been at odds since soon after the sale of the business from Thurlow to Willms and (the Grand Junction Athletic Club),” Grattan wrote in the motion.

“The appointment of Thurlow very much puts the ‘fox in charge of the henhouse.’”
But in an order issued

Nov. 12, Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger made it clear that the contract Willms and Thurlow signed when Willms purchased the business spelled out that failure to pay rent constituted a default and that Thurlow could reassume ownership of the business.

“Defendants have alleged no facts entitling them to have the receivership dissolved, to an expedited hearing or to an independent receiver,” Bottger wrote in his order.

Willms responded by writing a 2 1/2-page letter to Bottger explaining the background of his and his wife’s purchase of the athletic club and the financial troubles they experienced and asking for mercy.

“Judge, I am asking for your help. I don’t know where else to turn,” Willms concluded in the Nov. 20 letter.

“Our lawyer wants $5K to fight this but all assets were given to Thurlow. I am pleading for mercy for my family, my friends and myself. My savings, equity and hard earned income all went into the club, and our judicial system gave it all away.”

There is no indication in the case file that Willms notified his attorney or anyone else that he filed the letter.

A day later, Grattan sought to withdraw from the case, noting that in civil cases, clients must inform the court and other parties when they plan to serve papers or risk court sanctions.

Bottger responded in a Nov. 25 letter that there was nothing he could do to help the Willmses, saying he entered orders which he believes the law and the agreement with Thurlow require.

“There have certainly been times in my career on the bench when I have not been happy with what the law compelled me to do,” Bottger wrote.

“On the other hand, I recognize that this is how it must be. We cannot have a legal system in which a judge’s own sense of right and wrong or just and unjust overrides the laws enacted by the citizenry, either directly or indirectly through their representatives.”


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