Former nonprofit boss says job was given to Mollohan associate

By Cara Bailey | Feb 28, 2007


WHEELING - The former president and CEO of a West Virginia nonprofit organization has filed a suit that alleges, among other things, his job was given to "a close associate" of Congressman Alan Mollohan.

Nicholas Tomblin filed a complaint Feb. 22 in Ohio Circuit Court in which he names the Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization Inc., also known as OLETC, the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation and James Estep as defendants. Mollohan is not listed as a defendant, but he is mentioned numerous times in the lawsuit.

OLETC and WVHTCF are nonprofit corporations funded though legislative "earmarks," line items or special spending provisions in budget packages. In this instance, the suit says, the earmarks were supported by Mollohan.

Tomlin was employed by OLETC, starting in September 2000 as the deputy director. He was appointed interim director in September 2004, the complaint states.

On Nov. 18, 2004, the OLETC Board of Directors had its bi-annual meeting in Wheeling.

"During the course of said meeting… Estep appeared and stated that he had been in contract with the Congressman for West Virginia's First Congressional District (Mollohan) and indicated that it was the Congressman's wish that OLETC be absorbed by WVHTCF, and that WVHTCF would thereafter receive the (National Institute of Justice of the United States Department of Justice) funding previously received by OLETC," the suit says.

James Estep, a resident of Morgantown, is chairman of the Board of Directors of OLETC and president of WVHTCF.

Also in that November 2004 meeting, according to the suit, Tomlin was appointed president and chief executive officer of OLETC.

In the following months, several meetings took place. One, according to the suit, was on Jan. 13, 2005, during which Tomlin met with Craig Hartzell, the interim chairman of the Board of Directors of OLETC.

During the meeting, Hartzell stated he had spoken with Mollohan, and "it had been made clear to him that any plan that did not involve the dissolution of OLETC as a separate corporate entity would not be suitable to the Congressman," the complaint states.

On Feb. 25, 2005, Estep was appointed as chairman of the OLETC Board of Directors, and all but three Board members resigned, the suit says.

During a meeting on March 7, 2005, at Nemacolin Woodland Resort in Farmington, Pa., Tomlin was called in front of nearly 300 individuals and was introduced at the director of OLETC program and a new vice president of WVHTCF.

But the suit says that on March 31, 2005, Tomlin met with Estep and was advised his employment was terminated. However, the two entered into an Employee Agreement that provided Tomlin would remain on paid leave until May 1, 2005, and he would be paid $90,000 contingent upon award of the Tunnel Project, a five-year, $20 million federal contract.

Tomlin's position at OLETC was awarded to Steve Morrison, "a close associate" of Mollohan, the suit says.

In March 2006, Hartzell announced Azimuth Inc., together with its partners including WVHTCF, had been awarded the Tunnel Project. The suit says Tomlin was then supposed to be paid a minimum of $90,000, but he says he never was paid.

In the five-count suit, Tomlin seeks damages, claiming the defendants breached their Employment Agreement, his contractual rights and his business relationships. Tomlin, through attorney Patrick S. Cassidy, seeks punitive and compensatory damages.

Judge Arthur Recht has been assigned to the case.

Ohio Circuit Court case number 07-C-72

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