Pac/West triumphs in Caltrans conflict

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.

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

married).



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.



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