LOS ANGELES: Pacific/West Communications Group, once one of the 20 largest PR firms in the country, has won a dollars 2.3 million judgment against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for defamation and breach of contract.
LOS ANGELES: Pacific/West Communications Group, once one of the 20
largest PR firms in the country, has won a dollars 2.3 million judgment
against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for
defamation and breach of contract.
The LA-based firm, which took dollars 7.9 million in fees in 1996, was
forced out of business that year when the state agency withheld dollars
1 million in fees and vendor payments.
In a bizarre case involving charges of political and personal vendettas,
Pac/West had claimed that false audit reports and statements issued by
Caltrans caused the company dollars 1.935 million in damages. Following
a three-week binding arbitration trial, the court found that the state
agency had acted improperly. Caltrans may also be obligated to reimburse
the firm for its legal costs.
’At best, the judgment will only pay off all our debtors and attorneys,’
said Pac/West co-founder Stephen Tobia, who was nonetheless happy to be
vindicated. ’We’ll have little left after all our costs are paid.’
Caltrans press secretary Jim Drago said, ’The judgment has been made and
we’ll live with it.’ He declined to elaborate.
The case stemmed from a financial dispute between Pac/ West and Richard
Pedroncelli, an AP photographer. His wife, Maura Twomey, was the
second-in-charge of Caltrans’ audit department.
The arbitrator, Judge William Bertinelli, found not only that the
utility issued false audit reports that defamed Pac/West, but also that
Twomey’s involvement in the reports was a conflict of interest
(compounded by Caltrans’ denial of any knowledge that they were
According to Tobia and his wife and partner Maureen, Pac/West had eight
regional offices and more than 70 employees at its peak. Following the
court battle two years ago, they had to file for personal bankruptcy
because they had personally guaranteed the leases and losses.
Tobia served as VP for corporate communications at Beatrice Companies
Beverage Group Coca-Cola Enterprises before starting the firm. He is
currently writing a book about his personal ordeal.