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The county put the day-to-day operations of Erotic City in the control of Rhonda Boone. Employees claimed in court records that Rhonda ran the club well and that she sealed up the glory holes. (Rhonda Boone declined comment for this story.)
But Rhonda and her relatives fought for a slice of the inheritance. Debrah Lackey didn't trust her sister to run the cash-only business. She claimed that Rhonda and her then-husband, Mike Brants, had destroyed records showing how much money the lucrative video booths made. Rhonda filed a protection order against her, Lackey says, but the order was dropped when Rhonda failed to show up at the court hearing. Later, Lackey says, her brothers and sisters voted to require her to give three days' notice before showing up at Erotic City. Lackey says she hasn't been back since.
Lackey traces the tension with her siblings to a half-million-dollar Cayman Island bank account that was payable to her upon her father's death. Lackey refused to share the money with her brothers and sisters.
On the day of Elvin Boone's death, Rhonda fired Irving and had police remove her father's longtime business partner from Erotic City. Irving, then 52, sued the Boone children, claiming that they owed him a share of the business. He needed the money to pay $210,678 to the IRS for back taxes, according to court records. Irving died in 1999 before his case went to trial; the Boone estate later reached a $130,000 settlement with Irving's family.
On November 3, 1998, Probate Commissioner Kathleen Forsyth removed Rhonda Boone as Erotic City's personal representative, citing a conflict of interest in her role as the shop's general manager. The court appointed attorney Berry F. Laws III to oversee Erotic City's affairs.
While the case languished in court, Boone's children received dividend checks of up to $12,500 monthly. The sex shop also paid for their health insurance. By May 2001, each heir had received $207,500. Laws, who didn't return phone calls from The Pitch, estimated that each shareholder would take home $125,000 a year if Erotic City's revenue continued to top $1 million.
In May 2004, Laws hired Rhonda back as general manager. "Aside from sibling rivalry, Rhonda is the best person for the job," Laws wrote in a court filing. "First and foremost, she is honest; second, she has the family interests at heart; and third, she is well aware of the operation of this business, its clientele and the employees."
Laws drew up an agreement by which the eight heirs would form a board of directors to run Erotic City. Each member of the board would be an equal shareholder.
In 2004, a guardian for the 10-year-old heiress sold the girl's stake to her brothers and sisters for $222,750. According to court records, the business was valued at nearly $2 million at the time of the sale.
The newly created board also included a boy and a felon, Richard Wilkinson, who was convicted of marijuana possession in November 2005.
Even four years earlier, Laws anticipated future battles with Jackson County. "If past history is any gauge, I would assume that the county (sheriff's department, code enforcement, finance department, or others) will continue to pressure [Enlightened Reading Inc.]," Laws wrote in May 2001. "Suffice it to say that the county believes ERI to be an eyesore."
The bad blood has only worsened. In January, the board met at Laws' office after photos of the glory holes surfaced at the Jackson County Legislature meeting. Lackey says she chastised Rhonda Boone for allowing someone to cut the glory holes with a power drill. "There were glory holes this big," Lackey says she told her brothers and sisters while making a circle with her hands. "And they were not made by a knife."