PARKERSBURG - A Parkersburg transportation company has hired a former Wood County prosecutor to pursue a civil suit against its former president, who is now working for its cross-town rival, for alleged theft of trade secrets and other confidential information.
Gatewood Transportation filed suit in Wood Circuit Court against Glenn Hanson, a Belpre, Ohio resident, who worked at Gatewood for 15 years. The suit names Mystic Hills, a competing transportation company located on 29th Street in Parkersburg, as a co-defendant.
Representing Gatewood is Ginny Conley, who served as the Wood County prosecuting attorney from 1997 to 2008. In its complaint, Gatewood alleges that Hanson essentially stole "sensitive and proprietary information" from them by revealing it to Mystic Hills when he went to work for Mystic Hills in violation of a non-compete agreement.
According to court records, Hanson, 52, started at Gatewood on May 5, 1993. Records are unclear if he always held the position, but when he left Gatewood on June 6, 2008, Hanson was the company's president.
Nevertheless, the suit alleges that "[a]t the time of his departure, Hanson ... had a significant role in development and maintenance of the transportation routes, pricing and cost estimates, sales efforts, computer and customer support." Also, he "was a member of the Senior Management team at Gatewood and, as such, was generally aware of and privy to the most intimate details of Gatewood's business operations."
Records show Hanson signed an employment agreement with Gatewood on January 29 that the company uses "trade secret, confidential and proprietary information." Pursuant to the agreement, Hanson was not to disclose this information, and had to return any documents in his possession to the company prior to his departure.
The employment agreement also contained a non-compete clause which prohibits him from doing any business with any of Gatewood's competitors or customers within a 150-mile radius of Parkersburg for two years after he leaves Gatewood.
Records are unclear why Hanson left Gatewood, but he did sign an agreement not to pursue any legal action against them relating to his employment. The release, which, along with the employment agreement, is included as an exhibit, shows that upon his termination, Hanson was paid $16,000 of his $60,500 annual salary.
Records are also unclear as to when Hanson began working for Mystic Hills. However, Gatewood alleges that on March 17 it was contacted by one of its customers, Caterpillar, saying "it would no longer need their transportation services."
Caterpillar became a Gatewood customer on Jan. 3, 2006, with Hanson assigned to handle the contract. Less than a week after they notified Gatewood they were ending their contract, Caterpillar informed them their new freight carrier was Mystic Hills with Hanson serving as its contact.
In their suit, Gatewood alleges "Mystic Hills took part in a scheme by which Hanson would attempt to avoid its contractual obligations to Gatewood under the Gatewood Employment Agreement." Also, they allege that, in addition to Caterpillar, they "lost other current and prospective business opportunities" by Mystic Hills "specifically target[ing] Gatewood's customers" through "use of its confidential and proprietary information" obtained by Hanson.
In its suit, Gatewood makes claims against Hanson and Mystic Hills for breach of a non-compete provision, tortious interference with a contract, misappropriation of trade secrets and civil conspiracy.
They are seeking unspecified damages, court costs, attorneys fees and pre- and post-judgment interest.
Also, Conley asked that Judge J.D. Beane, who was assigned the case, grant two preliminary and permanent injunctions. One was to protect any of Gatewood's proprietary and confidential data from further disclosure, and another to declare the non-compete provision of Hanson's employment contract as enforceable.
During a July 9 hearing on preliminary injunctions, Hanson's attorney, Katherine Davitian, said he had yet to be served with notice of Gatewood's suit. However, a representative from Mystic Hills, who is not identified in court records, acknowledged that constructive service had been made on the company.
Conley asked that her motion for the preliminary injunctions be set aside, and the court order expedited discovery to begin within the next two weeks. However, Beane denied her request, and said he would set a new hearing date on the preliminary injunctions after Hanson had an opportunity to see the suit, and file a reply.
Wood Circuit Court, Case No. 09-C-323