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Off The Beaten Patch: Restraining Order Sought by Clayton Insurance Company's President

A roundup of legal and business news around the region.

SafeVision’s former president sued by company, accused of embezzling

SafeVision, based near Shrewsbury, which makes and sells eyewear, has sued company president Joel T. Wishne in St. Louis County. SafeVision, located at 8045 Big Bend Blvd., makes Romer II safety glasses for the U.S. military.

The glasses are dark wrap-around tinted safety glasses worn by many servicemen and women.
According to court documents, SafeVision alleges that between 2004 and 2011, Wishne, a Chesterfield resident, embezzled more than $1 million.

SafeVision has demanded the return of the money.

A receptionist at SafeVision told a reporter that Wishne is no longer with SafeVision.

In a 2005 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wishne said SafeVision outfitted around 1,000 soldiers. "Almost all were in Iraq or Afghanistan, or about to go there," the newspaper quoted Wishne, who was then the company's chief financial officer. "It's increasing. It could easily be 2,000."

Two year ago, Wishne told the St. Louis Business Journal that his company had around $2 million in sales annually.

SafeVision is seeking a judgment from St. Louis County Judge Mark Siegel in excess of $25,000 and punitive damages. Burton Shostak of Shostak & Shostak is representing SafeVision and did not return a call seeking comment.

Tenured Webster University Professor files four counts of employment discrimination

Webster University Associate Professor Tracey McCarthy sued the university in St. Louis County on Aug. 19 asking for in excess of $25,000 in damages on each of four counts of employment discrimination.

According to court documents, McCarthy alleges that over the last three years the university has discriminated against her because she is an African-American, a female, and also because she suffers from a cardiopulmonary lung disorder.

McCarthy, a full-time faculty member in the legal studies department, also alleges that after filing complaints internally with the university, Webster has retaliated by requiring her to participate in a post-tenure review, excluding her from professional development and excluding her from faculty meetings.

McCarthy also alleges that between October 2008 and November 2009 she was one of two tenured African-American faculty members of approximately 180 faculty world-wide and that other white professors were not subjected to a post tenure review.

On Nov. 18, 2009 McCarthy alleges she was directed by the university to refrain from all non-instructional duties including committee work and other faculty governance involvement.

McCarthy further alleges in the court documents that David Wilson, dean of arts and sciences, kissed her at a professional social gathering.

McCarthy is being represented by Donnell Smith of Smith & Associates who declined comment citing pending litigation.

This marks the second employment discrimination lawsuit filed against Webster this year.

Former Webster University CFO David Garafola, who lives near Manchester, filed suit against the university in January alleging he was forced to step down.

Webster’s motion to dismiss Garafola’s case was rejected by St. Louis County Judge Tom De Priest and a settlement hearing in the case has been scheduled for Oct. 13.

Former Jim Butler Kia salesman alleges retalitory termination for whistleblowing

Former Jim Butler Kia in Chesterfield salesman Richard Pfuhl alleges in court documents that he was fired for cooperating with a state investigation regarding odometer fraud in connection with the sale of a customer’s trade-in-vehicle.

In February 2010, Pfuhl, of Ellisville, assisted a customer in the purchase of a used vehicle from Jim Butler Kia. Documents say the customer told Pfuhl his trade-in vehicle, a 2002 Kia Sedona, had the original odometer replaced.

The trade-in-vehicle reflected mileage of approximately 64,000 miles, but the actual mileage was approximately 110,000 miles.

Pfuhl further alleges that he told Jim Butler Kia new car manager Austin Richards about the problem with the odometer.

The Missouri Department of Revenue later received a complaint regarding odometer fraud concerning the vehicle that had been sold by Jim Butler Kia.

In September 2010, Katrina Selsor, a special agent for the Department of Revenue’s criminal investigation bureau, questioned Pfuhl and other Jim Butler Kia employees about the mileage of the vehicle.

Pfuhl said he told Selsor he could not recall the facts about the trade-in vehicle and that he informed Brad Sowers, a Jim Butler Kia dealer and managing member, what he had told Selsor.

Pfuhl alleges that he was then approached by Richards and Jim Butler Kia used car manager Benjamin McFarland who instructed him not to speak with state investigators again regarding the matter.

In November, Selsor returned with documentation concerning the trade-in vehicle and interviewed Pfuhl again.

When he was confronted with Selsor’s documentation, Pfuhl agreed to provide a written statement and related the facts of the transaction, including the information provided by the customer concerning the discrepancy between the mileage on the trade-in vehicle’s odometer and the actual mileage.

Pfuhl also told Selsor that he had reported the discrepancy to his superior, Richards, in February 2010. Approximately three hours after Pfuhl spoke with Selsor, he said in documents that Jim Butler Kia fired him for cooperating with Selsor.

Pfuhl is seeking a judgement in excess of $25,000 and is being represented by Jonathan C. Berns of Dobson, Goldberg, Berns & Rich, who declined comment citing pending litigation.

Ex-Mayor of Olivette Melvyn Shaikewitz sued by employer

Clayton-based Powers Insurance and Benefits president Pierce Powers is seeking a temporary restraining order against Maryland Heights resident and former Olivette Mayor Melvyn Shaikewitz after he notified the company in July that he intended to quit. The action was filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Aug. 31.

Powers Insurance and Benefits offered a copy of an employment agreement allegedly signed by Shaikewitz, a vice president at the company, that says Shaikewitz can’t sell  insurance to any client account of Powers Insurance and Benefits or use any information acquired during his employment with the company for two years from the date of his termination agreement.

The company also says the case has been settled pending the attorneys for both parties returning from vacation. Powers Insurance and Benefits said the restraining order is needed to protect client accounts until the settlement agreement can be finalized.

Shaikewitz was appointed to the Olivette city council in 1994 and resigned prior to a controversial 2000 vote in which Olivette residents decided to keep city council members Sam Austin and Joan Markow in office.

The vote also saw Olivette residents reject an 80-acre shopping center proposed for the northwest corner of Olive Boulevard and Interstate 170 that would have involved government-assisted financing.

Olivette residents also also rejected a procedure to allow for elections on future proposals for large-scale developments during the 2000 vote.

David Bender of Rosenblum, Goldenhersh, Silverstein & Zafft is representing Powers Insurance and Benefits and did not return a call placed seeking comment.

Reliance Bank sues over $5 million loan

Reliance Bank has sued Thomas Roof, president of TR, i Architects & Constructors, over a $5 million loan to CVBBA I. The action, filed Aug. 30, was served through CVBBA I’s Arthur Weiss.

Weiss is president of Lisart Capital in Chesterfield and the former executive vice president of Wealth Management at Allegiant Bancorp.

According to court documents, Reliance alleges it loaned CVBBA I $5 million in November 2007 and Roof, a Frontenac resident, guaranteed CVBBA’s loan up to $400,000.

Roof and Weiss were directors at the failed WestBridge Bank & Trust Co. in Chesterfield.

WestBridge Bank and Trust Company was closed in October 2010 by the Missouri Division of Finance, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver. The FDIC took over WestBridge and transferred its assets to Midland States Bank, Effingham, IL.

Reliance alleges it is owed nearly $1.9 million, plus applicable interest and attorneys fees. The bank also alleges that Roof, as guarantor, owes $337,500, plus applicable interest and attorneys fees.

Reliance Bank is being represented by John G. Young Jr. of Stinson Morrison Hecker who declined comment citing pending litigation.

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