Jury trial possible; some have settled
SEATTLE – More than a dozen former members of billionaire Paul Allen’s security detail have sued or settled with the co-founder of Microsoft and investment company Vulcan, with some alleging the family partakes in illegal activity and that his sister Jody Allen sexually harassed them.
Vulcan attorney Harry Schneider described the claims as “meritless” and accused the employees of attempting to wring money out of their former employer, the seattlepi.com reported Friday.
“These lawsuits were filed 18 months ago because Paul Allen declined to acquiesce when plaintiffs threatened to file their outlandish allegations in court unless they were paid money,” Schneider said via email.
Though the company has fought to push the lawsuits into secret arbitration, Schneider went on to say Vulcan “expects to prevail in court.”
Allen made his fortune as Microsoft’s co-founder. He now is the chairman of Vulcan Inc., which he founded with his sister Jody Allen in 1986. He also owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers.
The news website reports that at least five former members of the Allens’ personal security team have sued the siblings and Vulcan. Court documents indicate that 10 other former members of the team have previously settled with Vulcan after closed hearings before a private mediator.
The former members of the Allens’ personal security detail have made vague claims that the Allens were involved in criminal activity and bribery, and that Jody Allen sexually harassed security officers. They also claim other Vulcan executives turned a blind eye or worse to the behavior.
Besides allegations of sexual harassment, court documents allege Jody Allen tried to sneak home giraffe bones while on safari in Botswana, but details are vague due to court orders and confidentiality agreements, the news website reported.
Those alleged crimes may be revealed later this year, when attorneys for two former leaders of the executive protection team – a retired FBI special agent among them – are scheduled to take their cases to a jury. The Allens would be called to testify, as would dozens of current and former Vulcan employees alleged to have witnessed illegal or unethical activities.
The Vulcan executive protection team is staffed by elite security contractors – SEAL-school-trained combat veterans among them – paid to protect Paul and Jody Allen, as well as Jody Allen’s children. Members of the team, which numbered eight to 14 people from 2010 to 2011, accompany the Allens when they travel and provide security for their properties.
In a sworn statement, former team leader and retired FBI special agent Kathy Leodler said the Allens are now trying to hide criminal activity behind confidentiality agreements.
“Let me be clear, I do not accept the assertion that crimes of corporate executives can be covered up by an agreement to protect trade secrets or Allen ‘privacy,’ ” Leodler said in a declaration to the court. “In spite of … ethical rhetoric and interviews of its executives and founder, it is clear that the core of Vulcan is based on extended patterns of executive corruption, a contamination of my workplace caused by criminal conduct, unethical behavior, obstruction of justice and a willingness of many indifferent executives to implicate others in the wrongful actions.”
Leodler is among the three ex-employees whose lawsuit is still being pursued in open court. An FBI agent for 23 years, Leodler was serving as acting special-agent-in-charge of the San Diego office when she retired in 2007 and went to work in private security.
In court documents, Leodler claims she started hearing complaints shortly after she was hired to head the division in October 2010. Officers claimed they were being sexually harassed by Jody Allen and were directed to cover up crimes committed by the Allens, attorney Rebecca Roe said in court documents. Roe represents Leodler and several other former Vulcan employees.
In June 2011, Leodler learned a safari guide was detained by Botswana customs officials after Jody Allen was caught with giraffe bones in her luggage, Roe said in court documents. The incident prompted Leodler to conduct an investigation that left her concerned that her team was being asked to bribe foreign officials, falsify customs declarations and smuggle protected items.
A spokeswoman for Vulcan declined to discuss the allegations in detail. Attorneys for the Allens have issued a blanket denial of all claims of wrongdoing.
Leodler and four other employees who have sued contend that they were fired or forced out around the time Vulcan was offering large bonus payments in exchange for agreements not to sue the company.
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