CHARLESTON - A Virginia man has filed a lawsuit against Jack Whittaker, claiming the Powerball winner fired him after he asked for his bonus.
Shawn M. Johnston filed a suit Feb. 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court. Johnston says he was hired by Whittaker to manage a car dealership -- with the promise of a 10 percent annual bonus -- and claims he was fired after asking for the money.
In August and September 2005, Whittaker told Johnston that he intended to buy a new automobile dealership in Wytheville, Va., and offered to employ Johnston as manager of the dealership if he would quit his job at Love-Lexus Toyota of St. Albans and move to Wytheville, the complaint states.
Johnston accepted Whittaker's offer and relocated. Within a few months of moving, Whittaker informed him that he was not successful in the new car dealership, but had acquired Blackburn Pre-owned Autos, which had several locations in West Virginia and offered to employ Johnston as Blackburn's manager.
The suit says that as a part of his compensation for taking the new job, Whittaker offered to pay Johnston a monthly salary and other perks, such as a monthly automobile allowance and an annual 10 percent bonus. Johnston accepted the offer and managed the Blackburn dealership. During 2005, Whittaker paid Johnston and provided the monthly automobile allowance.
During a phone call on Jan. 23, 2006, Johnston requested Whittaker pay him the annual bonus. But Whittaker "became irate" and fired Johnston, the suit says.
After he was fired, Johnston repeatedly requested Whittaker pay him, including the 10 percent bonus, vacation pay and weekly salary. But according to the complaint, Whittaker refused.
Whittaker then "published a libelous letter falsely accusing Johnston of having retained some of his money and of self dealing by having sold a recreational camper to himself and failing to fully pay for it, and failing to work the number of hours per week that allegedly had been agreed upon and threatening to prosecute Johnston if he, Whittaker, discovered any additional wrongdoing," the suit says.
Johnston seeks compensation for his damages and unpaid wages and benefits, interest for the wages, compensation for defamation of character humiliation, embarrassment and loss of good name, and court costs.
Whittaker has been in the public eye since he won the largest undivided prize in Powerball history, with a lump sum of $315 million. Several incidents have happened since that time, including the death of his granddaughter, assault charges and bounced checks. This is the third suit filed against Whittaker in two months.
Arthur J. Chmiel is representing Johnston, and the case has been assigned to Judge Irene Berger.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-299