Phila. judge transfers business dispute suit to York County Common Pleas Court

By Jon Campisi | Mar 6, 2014

A judge in Philadelphia has determined that a business dispute suit

A judge in Philadelphia has determined that a business dispute suit

involving the owners of a nonprofit organization that provides counter-terrorism research and analysis to threats of terrorism against entities in the public and private sector was improperly filed in her county.

In an opinion docketed late last month, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe sustained a preliminary objection by Michael Perelman, co-owner of the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response Inc., which sought to transfer a complaint initiated by company cofounder Aaron Richmon to the York County Court of Common Pleas.

Richmon and Perelman jointly founded ITRR, which also provides strategic and tactical intelligence training, mass casualty training, emergency management drills and exercises, and tactical training for first-responders, emergency medical staff as well as executive training, crisis management training, intelligence workshops, campus seminars and related services.

Richmon, who, as the apparent “face” of the company is responsible for the company’s sales efforts and is in charge of managing, designing and performing its training and research operations, is suing Perelman, who handles “back office” operations, over claims that Perelman stole company money and breached his fiduciary duty when he decided to go his own way.

In February 2013, the record shows, Perelman informed Richmon of his desire to withdraw from the operations of ITRR.

It was at this time that the defendant also allegedly began a competing business.

Richmon claims that since Perelman’s intended departure, his former partner became derelict in performing his duties for the company, including, but not limited to, failing to file tax returns, slacking on record-keeping, and failing to manage ITRR accounts receivable and accounts payable.

Perelman is also accused of siphoning off about $200,000 of the company’s accounts for he and his wife to use personally, supposedly as a return on his investment in ITRR instead of paying off the company’s creditors, employees and operations, according to court papers.

Richmon filed suit against Perelman in early August of last year, as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction against the defendant, alleging conversion, theft and breach of fiduciary duty.

The plaintiff also sought an accounting, injunction and declaratory judgment.

During a hearing at the end of that month in Philadelphia, the parties reached an agreement on a framework within which to resolve their disputes and the court entered a stipulated order outlining that framework, records show, although the order reserved the issue of venue for another day.

Subsequent to the hearing, Perelman filed his preliminary objection asserting improper venue.

Pryor Dembe, the Philadelphia judge, ruled late last month that the matter belongs in York County, not Philadelphia.

Richmond argued that the matter should remain in Philadelphia because the conversion claim arose from an injury inflicted in that eastern Pennsylvania city.

Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that Perelman converted property, assets belonging to ITRR, including but not limited to funds transferred by Perelman from a company account to an account under his sole control.

Pryor Dembe, however, wrote that Richmon failed to produce any evidence that the actual transfer of funds occurred in a Philadelphia branch of Sovereign Bank, which is the financial institution where ITRR’s bank accounts were opened, albeit in a York branch.

The judge also wrote that since ITRR does not have an office in Philadelphia and since it is alleged that Perelman is responsible for the “back office” operations of the company, including the finances, the act of converting the funds occurred in York, meaning that venue is proper in that county.

In the end, Pryor Dembe sustained Perelman’s preliminary objection and ordered the case transferred to York County’s Common Pleas Court.

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