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Published: Friday, 5/11/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

2 ex-Packo's employees claim unfair termination

Whistleblower Act violation alleged

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Two former employees of Tony Packo's Inc., have filed lawsuits in Lucas County Common Pleas Court alleging wrongful termination in violation of the Whistleblower Act.

Sue Marchbanks, a former accounting clerk, and Refujio Perez, former director of maintenance, filed separate complaints Wednesday against Packo's as well as TP Foods LLC and Bennett Management Corp., which purchased the restaurant company after it was in court receivership for more than a year.

Also named was the court-appointed receiver, Skutch Co. Ltd.

According to the lawsuits, Ms. Marchbanks and Mr. Perez were employed for many years by the company, each with "clean disciplinary record[s]."

The complaints further allege that each had witnessed separate incidents of wrongdoing on behalf of Tony Packo III and Cathleen Dooley, the company's controller, which they reported to authorities.

The lawsuits ask for back pay, attorney fees, and damages.

Specific to Ms. Marchbanks' case are allegations that she discovered "financial indiscretions" in the fall of 2009 on the part of Mr. Packo and Ms. Dooley.

The lawsuit listed five examples, including "checks written to Mr. Packo with no documentation to support expenditure," correction fluid used to convert Mr. Packo's personal bills to company bills, and the installation of a shower and roof at the house owned by Mr. Packo's mother paid for with company funds.

"Prior to reporting this information to the appropriate authorities, [Ms. Marchbanks] orally notified a responsible officer of Packo's Inc. and subsequently provided that officer with written documentation in sufficient detail to identify and describe the alleged violations," the complaint said.

"The responsible officer of Packo's reported the financial indiscretions to the Lucas County Prosecutor and identified [Ms. Marchbanks] as the source of the information."

Mr. Perez in his lawsuit says he saw Mr. Packo and Ms. Dooley removing cases of liquor and food products from company property without documentation as to where the items went.

The complaint also alleges that he witnessed parking-lot money and special-events cash being removed by Mr. Packo and Ms. Dooley without being deposited into the company account.

Both plaintiffs say they told an investigator at the prosecutor's office what they had seen.

On Dec. 14, Mr. Packo, 39, and Ms. Dooley, 46, each was indicted on three alternate counts of aggravated theft. They are charged with stealing about $170,000 from Tony Packo's Inc. over a four-year period.

They each remain free on their own recognizance and have an Aug. 13 trial date before Judge Frederick McDonald.

Attorney R. Kevin Greenfield, who filed the lawsuit, noted that the allegations in the lawsuit were "pretty specific."

"We laid out the allegations and they speak for themselves," he said. "We'll just see what happens."

In February, after a lengthy court battle initiated by former co-owner Robin Horvath, the company was sold through court order to businessman Bob Bennett of TP Foods LLC.

At the time, all Packo's employees were informed by the receiver that their employment was terminated and that they would receive notification from TP Foods with an invitation to apply for continued employment.

Ms. Marchbanks and Mr. Perez said that they received notices from Mr. Bennett saying that their services were no longer needed.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Mr. Bennett said he was not aware of the lawsuit and so could not comment on it.

"They were never employees of TP Foods nor Bennett Foods," he added. "I don't think there's a foundation for [the lawsuit]."

Chris Parker, attorney for the receiver, also declined to comment on the complaint, noting that he had not seen the lawsuit.

He said a receiver can't be sued without permission from the court and said he was not aware that any permission was granted.

Ms. Marchbanks' case was assigned to Judge Dean Mandros, and Mr. Perez's lawsuit was assigned to Judge Linda Jennings.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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