Accounting firm says ex-employee tried to steal clients

By Audrey Holsclaw | Aug 14, 2008

MARTINSBURG -- A Martinsburg man is being sued after he allegedly breached a condition of his employment contract after leaving an accounting firm.

Kurt Miller of Martinsburg worked for Albright Crumbacker Moul & Itell for nearly 10 years. He was hired as a staff accountant on Sept. 13, 1999, and signed an employment agreement stating that he would not "either directly or indirectly, on behalf of themselves or any other person or entity, divert, solicit, detract away or service, any Client Accounts of the Employer for a period of two consecutive years from the date of termination of employment ..."

The lawsuit says Miller filed a notice to terminate the agreement on May 28, 2008, and Albright Crumbacker Moul & Itell, instead of paying him to work during a 30-day notice period, paid the salary he would have earned if he had worked.

The day Miller terminated, he discussed in person with his manager, John Itell, the applicability and validity of the employment agreement, the lawsuit says.

However, the suit states Miller spoke with several clients during his 30-day notice period, and he tried to persuade them to terminate or reduce their level of business with Albright Crumbacker Moul & Itell, to permit him to provide those services, and in some cases, both.

On June 24, Miller was advised by letter to cease and desist.

The employment agreement also contains a liquidated damages provision, which, for each separate breach, an amount calculated by averaging the sum of the fees billed by Albright Crumbacker Moul & Itell to the client involved over the previous two years multiplied by two.

The accounting firm currently estimates this total to be well in excess of $100,000, and according to the lawsuit.

Filed by A. Neal Barkus of Martinsburg in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Albright Crumbacker Moul & Itell is seeking an injunction to prevent Miller from continuing to breach the employment agreement, liquidated damages calculated according to the employment agreement, and litigation costs.

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