Ad man Heathcott sues CJRW for damages in ouster | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ad man Heathcott sues CJRW for damages in ouster

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 4:42 PM

  • Arkansas Business
Gary Heathcott the long-time ad and PR man who now lives in San Antonio, has sued CJRW, the big ad and PR firm based in Little Rock, over its severing of a consulting deal with him last year and asks $1.3 million in actual damages plus unspecified punitive damages.

We reported in 2017 on reporting by Kyle Massey at Arkansas Business on the rupture of a deal between CJRW and Heathcott, who was credited with bringing major state business — including the Arkansas Lottery and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission — to the firm. Heathcott had powerful state connections. He had handled advertising for Asa Hutchinson's  first run for governor in 2014. Heathcott issued a statement to Arkansas Times at the time.

Heathcott said then he'd sold his firm to CJRW in 2014 (the terms of that deal haven't been revealed) with an expectation of staying for only a short time as a consultant. But then he said he landed the $6 million Arkansas Healthcare Marketplace account for the firm. That led, he said to a five-year consulting contract with CJRW, eventually amended to be worth $234,000 a year for five years plus expenses, a bonus program and 10 percent commission on revenues credited to Heathcott. Details here. And here's the commission plan.

In his statement, Heathcott said he concluded that, once new contracts were in place, CJRW no longer needed him and decided to save the money by severing the agreement. CJRW didn't say, but Massey's article linked the action to "unprofessional comments" by Heathcott.

Heathcott's lawsuit, which you can read here, reveals more about events.

He says he was told in September 2017 by CJRW CEO Darin Gray to vacate his office because of "alleged complaints from employees." The Board of Directors terminated him in November for violating "methods and procedures" and the employee handbook.

Heathcott's suit says he was a consultant, not an employee, and knew nothing about the handbook. He contends he was told by the firm's director of human resources that there'd been no previous complaints about him and the firm never followed procedures required for complaints about him.

The suit alleges that, beginning in September, Gray or others acting for him solicited employees to make complaints of harassment against Heathcott and those who refused were threatened with retaliation.

The suit also alleges the defendant accessed Heathcott's computer and he later learned it had been infected with spyware so that others could monitor his computer activities. He alleges further that some paper and digital files he'd maintain in an office at CJRW were not returned to him.

The suit, in Judge Timothy Fox's court, alleges breach of contract and asks $1.3 million in compensation. He also asks punitive damages for "computer trespass." He also asks for an injunction ordering the return of files.

The suit seeks a jury trial. I've asked Darin Gray for a comment. The suit was filed today and a formal legal response has not been filed.

UPDATE: Mark Rains responded on behalf of Darin Gray:
"We do not provide response to potential or pending litigation.” 

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