Former Law Partners at War in Miami
MIAMI (CN) - A senior law partner claims his boss wrongfully fired him for confronting him about using the firm's money for personal expenses and to fund Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign. John E. Leighton sued Leesfield & Partners fka Leesfield Leighton & Partners and Ira H. Leesfield in Miami-Dade County Court, alleging wrongful termination and breach of fiduciary duty.
Leighton says he reviewed the firm's financial documents in 2008, and found "a shocking waste and misuse by Leesfield of the firm's funds."
Leighton claims that after Leesfield learned of his discovery, Leesfield "became enraged," and told Leighton, "You work for me! You see what I want you to see. This is my firm."
Leighton says he was then "locked out of the firm's computer system and the physical premises of the law firm," and denied access to his computer files, which prohibited him from working on "a major wrongful death/brain injury case that had national prominence."
He says Leesfield fired him a few days later.
Leighton worked for Leesfield as a law clerk while attending law school. After 20 years as a lawyer, he says, he acquired 19.3 percent in ownership in the company, which "would entitle him to increased financial information about the Leesfield Firm, as well as an increased participation in decision-making at the firm."
The complaint states that in 2005, Leesfield represented to Leighton that because Leesfield would be curtailing his involvement in the law firm while he pursued other interests - which included serving as Hillary Clinton's finance chairman for her presidential campaign - Leighton would assume more control of the firm.
But Leighton says he was never granted access to the firm's "financial affairs and the financial books and records," and Leesfield remained the "only shareholder who had complete access to the firm's underlying financial information."
Leighton claims that Leesfield paid his daughter " a substantial salary during several months while she was not even working at the firm"; secretly installed computer surveillance to record all of the firm's computer activities in order to better "perpetuate his scheme and maintain secrecy"; and refused to disclose terms of the lease for the firm's office, which it rented from Leesfield, rendering it nearly impossible for the firm's shareholders to determine whether the rent was fair market price.
The complaint states: "In 2007 and 2008, Leesfield spent several months away from the law firm and the active practice of law pursuing personal interests, including serving as the finance chairman for Hilary Clinton's failed Presidential campaign. Much of the time that Leesfield actually spent in the office was used to solicit contributions for Hillary Clinton and Leesfield, as it turns out, was using the law firm's resources including staff, offices, postage, office supplies and other items to fund Leesfield's personal political interests for Hillary Clinton causes. "Leighton confronted Leesfield about Leesfield's lectures that expenses should be kept to an absolute minimum and demanded access to the financial books and records. Leesfield represented to Leighton that none of Leesfield's personal expenses for his lavish lifestyle and for his political contribution participation had any impact or effect on the overhead figures for the law firm which were utilized to calculate compensation to the shareholders including bonuses to Leighton. Because Leesfield became confrontational, dictatorial and verbally abusive when Leighton questioned Leesfield about any aspect of firm finances or management, Leighton began to suspect that the law firm's finances were being used to fund Leesfield's personal expenses, including members of his family for vacation homes, parties, meals, entertainment, travel for himself and his family, clothing, luxury items and social, political and personal activities that were completely unrelated to the law firm's business."
Leighton also claims Leesfield refused to pay him for his $250,000 worth of shares and his year-end bonus for 2008.
Leighton is represented by Robert Frankel.