Former Encinitas Chamber of Commerce CEO Sues The Chamber For Defamation

Gary Tucker, former CEO of the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, alleged today in San Diego Superior Court that the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, Pres. Ken Gross, Board Member Colleen Walsh, and her company CFO To-Go have repeatedly defamed him.
By: Chapin Wheeler LLP
 
 
Nov. 24, 2009 - PRLog -- Gary Tucker, former CEO for the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, alleged today that the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce, Chamber President Ken Gross, Board Member Colleen Walsh, and her company CFO To-Go have repeatedly defamed him.  Mr. Tucker made these allegations in a Complaint filed today in San Diego Superior Court.  Representing Mr. Tucker in this lawsuit are Ed Chapin, Jill Sullivan and Jennifer Chapman, of Chapin Wheeler LLP.

Mr. Tucker volunteered on the Chamber’s Board of Directors for many years, and performed so well that the Chamber courted him and hired him as the Chief Executive Officer in February 2007.  When Mr. Tucker became CEO, the Chamber was suffering significant financial difficulties; it had nearly $40,000.00 of debt and was two months in arrears on its bills.  By January 2009, Mr. Tucker had achieved the Chamber’s goal in hiring him: the Chamber had $15,000.00 in the bank and all bills were current.
According to Mr. Tucker’s complaint, he resigned in early 2009, since he had achieved his managerial objectives, but also because he had lost confidence in the Chamber’s Executive Committee.  Mr. Tucker was concerned about the failure of Board Members to pay dues, officers’ indecisiveness, and the Executive Committee’s deviations from requirements in their governing documents, among other things.

After his resignation, the Chamber refused to pay Mr. Tucker money due to him under his employment contract.  Mr. Tucker had to file a claim with the Labor Commissioner of the State of California just to receive his outstanding earnings.  The Labor Commissioner found in favor of Mr. Tucker, and ordered the Chamber to pay Mr. Tucker the outstanding amounts.
 
Immediately before the Labor Commission hearing, Chamber President Gross threatened to defame Mr. Tucker.  Around the same time, the Chamber commissioned a forensic accountant report for the period of July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2009.  The Chamber hired its own member, Colleen Walsh, a CPA whose license is currently inactive, and her company “CFO To-Go” to write the report.  Although the report was ostensibly commissioned to comply with the Encinitas City Council’s desire for an audit of the Encinitas Visitor Center, the Chamber instead ordered a forensic audit of the Chamber’s finances as a whole.

According to Mr. Tucker’s Complaint, the content of the report makes clear that it was a hit piece commissioned in retaliation for his Labor Board complaint and the previous disagreements he had with the Chamber Board.  The accountant’s report is purportedly based on information provided by the Chamber to Ms. Walsh, and, according to Mr. Tucker, contains false and defamatory statements throughout.  The report is subtitled: “CITY of ENCINITAS and CHAMBER of COMMERCE FUNDS GROSSLY MISMANAGED BY FORMER ADMINISTRATION,” and false and inaccurate statements pepper the report.  For instance, on page 3 of the report, Ms. Walsh claims that “During City fiscal 2008 $44k of the former CEO’s salary was billed to the City…”  Mr. Tucker maintains that Chamber records, however, demonstrate that the “$44k” actually also includes the salaries of three employees.

Within a short period after issuing the defamatory report, the Chamber rewarded Ms. Walsh for following its instructions to defame Mr. Tucker by electing Ms. Walsh to the Chamber Board of Directors, a move which also compromises the “independence” of the forensic accounting.

Mr. Tucker’s attorney Jill Sullivan said, “Gary Tucker worked hard for the Chamber and was a generous donor of his time and talent.  In a terrible case of ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’ the Chamber illegally withheld his earnings from him, then retaliated against him with a defamatory hit piece because Mr. Tucker dared to stand up for his rights as an employee.  Until the Chamber did this, Mr. Tucker had built and enjoyed an exemplary reputation as a businessman in Encinitas.  This lawsuit will restore that to him.”

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Chapin Wheeler LLP is a litigation boutique in San Diego, California that has proven its skill at handling intricate and high-stakes cases for individuals and businesses. The firm represents plaintiffs in class actions and as individuals in business disputes as well as employment, employment discrimination, mortgage litigation, contract, consumer law, and personal injury matters. Individuals with such claims are encouraged to contact Chapin Wheeler directly at (619) 241-4810, echapin@chapinwheeler.com, or jsullivan@chapinwheeler.com.
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Page Updated Last on: Jan 23, 2010
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