Britney Spears's dad may be on his way out as her controversial conservator, but he hasn't officially stepped down as some headlines suggest.
On Thursday, triumphant cries were heard far and wide as news circulated that Jamie Spears — who has overseen and profited off of the conservatorship for the last 13 years — "agreed" to resign his controversial post. And while that is potentially great news for the star, who has accused him of conservatorship abuse, Jamie's filing actually argued that he "should not be suspended or removed." It also noted that he "is willing to step down when the time is right, but the transition needs to be orderly and include a resolution of matters pending before the court."
NBC News confirmed with his legal team that he isn't stepping aside at this time.
"Jamie Spears is not stepping down unless the court approves payment of the attorney's fees that he's seeking of $1.2 million dollars and his compensation," California-based family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher of Walzer Melcher explains to Yahoo Entertainment. "So he's conditioned his exit on the court approving things thatBritney has previously objected to."
That's reflected in the filing, where it talks about "pending matters" related to his role as conservator, noting specifically the "Twelfth Account and a final account." That section also notes there "are no urgent circumstances justifying Mr. Spears’ immediate suspension," a claim we know the pop star disagrees with, as "every day matters," when he is in charge of her estate, her attorney Mathew Rosengart has said. It also provides no timetable for him stepping down.
Within the pending accounting is the controversial $531,065 Jamie spent of Britney's money for "media matters." That included non-legal work spent by one of the law firms representing him rehabbing Jamie's public image. It includes paying a crisis PR expert $146,000, over four months, to do damage control on Jamie's behalf. It also covered putting his attorney Vivian Thoreen on TV to spread the message that the 39-year-old's "daddy" loves her.
"That doesn't benefit Britney," says Melcher, who is representing Kanye West in his divorce from Kim Kardashian. "So to condition his withdraw on a payment of a contested bill that clearly doesn't benefit the estate, I think is a breach of fiduciary duty. Also, it's a breach for him to even ask for those payments to be made and disguise them as attorneys fees because they're not. Attorneys can only bill for time spent by an attorney or a paralegal. It's improper to bill for a non-legal professional. They disguised it as legal services."
Spears's new attorney has claimed Jamie "dissipated" Britney's fortune. Another outstanding accounting issue is Jamie being accused of having "grossly overpaid" Britney's former business manager, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment, by $200,000 while the star was on her work hiatus.
Melcher believes that Jamie sees the writing on the wall — in that he will ultimately be removed and perhaps as soon as the Sept. 29 hearing — and wants the fees to be paid so he's not stuck with them.
"This is an attempt to stave off any potential lawsuit that Britney would likely bring against Jamie later on," Melcher thinks.
So what's next in this saga? The Sept. 29 hearing at which Melcher predicts "the court will remove Jamie because he himself is now stating he's willing to leave." For those keeping track, Britney has called for him to be removed and so has the conservator of Britney's person, Jodi Montgomery, the star's medical team and Britney's mother, Lynne Spears.
However, Melcher hopes that the judge won't sign off on the accounting fees in question at the same hearing — until there's an investigation.
"Britney has never had a real opportunity to investigate" the questionable handling of her finances, Melcher says. While her former lawyer Samuel Ingham III did previously object, Britney "was poorly represented" and should have the chance to have "new counsel come in, do an investigation and have a hearing on those fees."
Also ahead, as Rosengart said in his statement after Jamie's filing on Thursday, is the fact that Jamie will be deposed prior to the next hearing.
"That will happen whether Jamie's removed or not," Melcher explains. It will be a "compelled statement under oath" in which Rosengart "basically cross-examines or interrogates Jamie on all these issues."
Also, while it was considered a setback that Britney's request to move up the hearing date was denied, Jamie's filings could work in her favor. For instance, in Thursday's filing, Jamie's legal team used pages upon pages to attack his ex-wife. For instance, there's a section stating that Lynne has been estranged from Britney through most of the conservatorship and they don't speak, yet it's noted Britney's conservatorship foots the $150,000 annual bill for the upkeep of Lynne's Louisiana mansion.
"Jamie said things in that opposition that are really damaging," Melcher says. "In trying to make Lynne look bad, he states that Lynne has been feeding off this trough too… What Jamie doesn't think about or realize is he's the one who approved those expenses. There's no reason for Britney's money to be used to support anyone other than Britney. He's now admitted to misuse of Britney's money. He's made a very damaging admission."
Further, Jamie disclosed things in the filing about Britney that he should be keeping private, including the parts about alleged addiction and mental health issues.
"Even if that is true, he should be keeping that private," Melcher says.
And Jamie has claimed to not be involved in Britney's health care, but the filing has extensive details outlining how Britney came under psychiatrist Dr. Benson's care and talks all about her being put in a treatment facility in 2019. Britney has claimed she was forced into it against her will.
Melcher also questions Jamie's claim in the document that Britney was able to come and go while she was in the treatment facility while it also notes that she had her two sons come to the facility to see her.
"No parent would want their child visiting them at a mental facility," especially if she could just check out and go see them," Melcher says. "That indicates to me that she didn't know she could leave."
As for the forever burning question — when will Britney be free? — "It's going to take a bit," the lawyer says. Rosengart's strategy seems to first get rid of Jamie. Then, put in a professional, like Jason Rubin who would hopefully be aligned with Britney's best interest.
"That would then create smooth sailing to have the conservatorship ended," says Melcher.
He adds, "Rosengart should attack the conservatorship — saying it's not needed to go forward — but also that it was never properly placed upon Britney in the first place. No notice given to her," when she was forced into it in 2008. "No capacity determination. And what she's said suggests there was nothing voluntary about it. There are systematic failures."
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