BEAUFORT, Carteret County - A local non-profit group specifically designed to raise money to benefit the Queen Anne's Revenge research project along our coast is no longer in operation.
Documents from the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State show the dissolution of "Friends of the Queen Anne's Revenge" became official this month. It's all due to a lawsuit against the state in which the organization is named.
"That just simply precludes us from raising any funds," said Tom Kies. He was the organization's spokesperson while it was still operational.
For years the group helped fund research efforts stepping up sometimes in places where the state fell short. Despite the lawsuit and the dissolution of "Friends," state officials tell us conservation efforts.
"The dissolution of the Friends Group will have no effect on our ongoing QAR efforts. It is still our plan to focus on artifact conservation. So much has been brought up that we need to concentrate efforts on conserving the treasures and moving them toward public display. The friends group has been very helpful and we appreciate all of their hard work," said Cary Cox, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Assistant Secretary of Marketing and Communications.
Cox also said no dives are scheduled for 2016. Excavation dives were one of "Friends" biggest causes. They provided $100,000 for a dive just last year, according to Kies.
"We were hoping to have everything off the ocean floor by 2018. That's the 300th anniversary of the QAR," said Kies.
That timeline could now be drawn out due to the federal action that not only names "Friends" but several state officials, including the governor.
The suit is being brought by Nautilus Productions Co-Founder, Rick Allen. According to his website his production company is the "exclusive owner and licensor of footage from Blackbeard the Pirate's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge."
The longtime QAR videographer and documentarian accuses the state of stealing his work, copyright infringement and unfair and deceptive trade practices. It calls "Blackbeard's Law," adopted late last year, unconstitutional.
The law says any media and artifacts related to the shipwreck and in the possession of the state are public and can be used by the state without limitations. But Allen alleges the state had much of his work already in their possession for research reasons before passing the law so he is suing.
The lawsuit means right now no one is raising money on the historic project's behalf.
"Right now there are no 501c3 organizations raising funds for the Queen Anne's Revenge," said Kies.
We were unable to interview Allen at the advice of his lawyers. According to state dissolution documents "Friends" is now tying up loose ends and any remaining assets are to be turned over to another local non-profit, "Friends of the North Carolina Maritime Museum."
The state is also fighting a second multi-million dollar lawsuit by a maritime research company in Florida who discovered the shipwreck in the late 1990s. That suit alleges many of the same claims.