CHARLESTON – Anna Reynolds worked seven years for a man who with a single touch ruined her love of dresses, according to her sworn statement in her human rights suit against Better Foods Inc.
She seeks damages from Better Foods and its former controller, Paul Niedbalski. She alleges he made sexual advances.
Better Foods owns Tudor's Biscuit World and Gino's Pizza restaurants. Former state Senator Oshel Craigo owns Better Foods.
"I'm a woman. I love to wear dresses," Reynolds said during a Nov. 8 deposition.
She said one day she wore a white dress with brown polka dots.
"It's a nice fitting dress," she said. "It fits me.
"He came into the kitchen and put his –- rubbed his finger a little bit on my bottom leg and run it up and he said, 'you need to wear that more often, dresses that fit like that.'
"I started wearing long shirts to cover my body. Flannels, whatever I could get to cover, you know, and wearing pants all the time.
"I even heard people snickering and making little jokes. Wonder if she's lesbian? Look what she wears.
"No. I changed my attire because of him. ... I always loved to wear dresses but he took that away from me."
On another occasion Niedbalski kissed her, she testified.
"When I turned around he was in my – he was at me and he kissed me and I said, 'Oh no Paul, no,'" she said. "I wasn't mean. I wasn't hateful. I just said no."
Better Foods attorney John Tinney Jr., of Charleston, asked if Niedbalski tried to kiss her.
"No, he put his lips on me," Reynolds said.
Reynolds alleges other violations of rights besides sexual advances. She claims Niedbalski threatened her and verbally abused her. She claims that on her last day at Better Foods, Niedbalski treated her so roughly that she lost consciousness.
Craigo himself was present for her deposition, in Tinney's office on the 14th floor of the Chase Tower.
Arthur Chimiel of Bell & Bands in Charleston represented Reynolds.
Reynolds told Tinney she was 48 and she lived at Buffalo. She said she went to tenth grade at Dunbar High. She said she had two grown children, Jeremy and Tiffany.
Tinney showed her an exhibit and asked what it was. She said attorney Christopher Moffatt told her to write down at least six things. Tinney asked if she wrote it all in one sitting.
"I sat down at home and just started writing, and you can see it's sloppy," she said. "It's not a good production and I apologize for that.
"He just told me to remember things and it just all started coming, more and more and more, and I could have went on and on and on."
"He is no longer representing you?" Tinney asked.
"He turned it over to Bell and Bands," Reynolds replied.
Tinney asked why she started with a certain story.
"There is no particular order," she said. "Like I said, it's just whatever came to mind. It's not professionally written and I apologize.
"I could go home and redo it but there's no point. It's hard enough with all the nightmares to rehash all this."
Tinney asked about her last day at work. She said another worker started crying and ran out to her car for a smoke. She said she asked Niedbalski what was wrong.
"I hate to do all this cussing words," Reynolds said. "Do you want me to do that? I mean I can't remember everything because it goes rolly rolly."
"You can do it however it makes you comfortable," Tinney said.
"I don't feel comfortable with cussing like that," Reynolds said. "I hate it. I don't want to go to hell for it.
"I walked in and he said, 'Come in. Get your goddam ass in here.'"
She said he told her the next time the other worker made a mistake, Reynolds would be fired.
"He's the controller," she said of Niedbalski. "He's the one that actually made the whole mistake happen but he said, 'When Oshel jumps me s--- goes downhill and that's where it ends, with you.'
"Our office had to be done correctly for the whole company to flow money wise. That's what I was there for, to protect Mr. Craigo and Mrs. Craigo, mostly Mrs. Craigo because she hired me and wanted me to learn all that. But there was no talking to Paul."
She said she went to her office and cried. She said Jeff Mace of accounts payable asked what was wrong and she told him.
"Jeff Mace went ballistic," Reynolds said, adding that Mace told Niedbalski he could not treat people like that. She said he told her to get an attorney.
"Paul overheard," Reynolds said.
She said Mace was in his office and Niedbalski came to her office.
"His face was blood red," she said. "His neck was red."
She said he shut the door and locked it. She said she asked how she could be responsible for everybody's mistakes. She said she told him she would get her purse and leave.
"I was reaching for it and he said, 'You're not going f---ing nowhere,'" Reynolds testified. "'You're going to f---ing listen to me.'
"He was physical with it. He was up in my face. ... I tried to move him to get around him and he said – He took my arms and he said, 'You're not going anywhere. You're going to f---ing listen.'"
She said she told him she heard enough. She said she told him, "I would rather push a street car rather than listen to you any more."
She said she started to stand and everything got blurry.
"I was sitting and he was screaming and he was going on and on and on and everything in my head was just – oh my God please, you know, just let it stop," she said, adding that she hollered for help and gort out of her chair.
"All of a sudden I seen arms. I can't tell you. I seen arms but I felt this bad pain that hit me right here and it doubled me and I said oh my God and everything was fizzy. Everything was black fuzzy."
"The next thing I remember I was going backwards and there was a four foot tall four shelf metal tall file cabinet, the metal, and my head hit the file cabinet and that's all I remember until I woke up."
She said that after she got home Tanya White-Woods called. According to the transcript White-Woods was present for the deposition. Reynolds said White-Woods told her Niedbalski wanted to apologize. She said he had apologized probably 480 times.
She said others would cuss back at him.
"If he'd throw something at them they'd throw it at him," Reynolds said. "I wasn't raised that way."
Tinney asked if Niedbalski treated everybody the same.
"He didn't tell them they may have AIDS because they was so sklinny," Reynolds testified. "I had lost down to 71 pounds."
She said they told her they would put her downstairs. She said she told them if she and Niedbalski worked in the same building they would pass.
"Paul would get me in a state on a Friday before I left to make me worry all weekend," she said.
She said her son asked why she didn't quit and she told him she respected Mr. and Mrs. Craigo to the utmost.
"When Mr. Craigo wasn't going to run for the Senate any more or didn't get it, whatever you know, everybody was like oh my God he's going to be in his office every day," Reynolds said, adding that she remembered thanking God and thinking "This place will be run right."
Paul Frampton Jr. of Charleston, representing Niedbalski, asked Reynolds if she alleged that he tried to kiss her.
"No, he did kiss me," she said.
Frampton asked if she said he ran his finger up and down her side.
"He kind of started at the little split and then moved it over," she said. "It fit nice. I was proud of it, but I'll never wear it again."