Ex-manager sues firm over theft accusation

November 12, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The former manager of a financially troubled Columbia telecommunications company is suing the firm for $10 million, claiming it maliciously charged him with taking equipment and records.

Jeffrey Cunningham of Finksburg filed the suit against American Beeper Associates on Oct. 30 in Howard County Circuit Court.

Also named in the suit are four officers of the firm, which does business as Page Plus Corp., and the company's general partner, Pager Communication Corp. of Crofton.

American Beeper, which is owned by U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen and 27 others, and Pager Communication filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy papers Sept. 18.

Mr. Cunningham worked as general manager and consultant at American Beeper, which leases and sells paging devices, between January 1991 and April 22, when he resigned, the suit stated.

Two weeks later, officials of Page Plus filed a criminal complaint, accusing him of stealing equipment and records.

Mr. Cunningham was arrested June 24 by Baltimore County police and was "booked, fingerprinted, photographed, handcuffed and detained for approximately six hours," the suit said.

He appeared before a Howard County District Court commissioner and was released on his own recognizance.

Mr. Cunningham was to be tried Oct. 27, but the state's attorney's office dropped the charges for lack of evidence, the suit said.

"As a result of the defendants' conduct and actions, [Mr.] Cunningham has suffered embarrassment, humiliation, severe mental anguish, loss of reputation, loss of income, and was in other respects hurt and injured," the suit said.

Page Plus officials "acted with malice and without probable cause" in filing the charges.

Deborah Caperna, acting general manager for Page Plus and a defendant in the suit, dismissed the allegations. She said the company may counter-sue to get equipment and documents it insists he took.

The company contends Mr. Cunningham took at least 63 pagers from its offices in the 8300 block of Guilford Road in Columbia, she said.

"We are in such a terrible financial position," Ms. Caperna said. "We don't have the money to replace the equipment he took."

Scott Rotter, a Baltimore attorney representing Mr. Cunningham, said a counter-suit would be "baseless."

"The case against Mr. Cunningham was [dropped] because there was no evidence," Mr. Rotter said. "He did not improperly take anything."

Mr. Cunningham acknowledges taking paging equipment and company records but says they belonged to Northeastern Paging, a New Jersey company he operates, according to the suit.

Mr. McMillen, who lost his bid for re-election last week, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

In addition to Ms. Caperna, three other company officers were named as defendants: President Edward Dyas Jr., Vice President Buddy Marx and office manager Sandra Nichols.

Pager Communication changed its name from McMillen Communications Corp. when it filed bankruptcy papers.

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