Williston Timber sues Plum Creek alleging vendetta
Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 6:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 6:42 p.m.
Williston Timber Company contends in a lawsuit that Plum Creek Timber Company and three managers tried to put it out of business because of a vendetta a Plum Creek manager had against a Williston employee who used to work for him.
The lawsuit alleges that Plum Creek ended a long-term business relationship with Williston Timber and related companies owned by the Hodge family of Williston as a result of the feud and actively discouraged other property owners from using their services.
Williston Timber and Williston Trucking provided logging services to Plum Creek, while sister company PineEarth Forestry provided reforestation and firefighting services to Plum Creek.
The lawsuit also contends that Plum Creek abruptly raised its price for pulp wood to Williston sister company Derby Gold Pine Shavings, which provides shavings for horse bedding. When Derby Gold was unable to pay, Plum Creek allegedly hauled the wood to more distant markets for a lower price.
The Williston companies had to lay off more than 20 employees and contract haulers in March, said attorney Mike Piscitelli of Fort Lauderdale.
Williston Timber filed the lawsuit in the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Levy County on Dec. 18. It names three Plum Creek companies and its managers Thomas Reed, Jon Rashleigh and Ben Dow individually as defendants.
The Williston companies are asking for Plum Creek to pay damages and are requesting a jury trial.
A June 6 hearing is scheduled for Judge Ysleta McDonald to rule on Plum Creek’s motion seeking arbitration.
Kathy Budinick, senior director of communications, said from Plum Creek headquarters in Seattle that “we believe the lawsuit is without merit and that the facts are pretty clear. Plum Creek had a contractual relationship with Williston Timber. The three-year contract expired, and we chose not to renew it.”
According to the lawsuit, the feud started because Philip Parker, who was southeastern region marketing manager for Plum Creek, expressed serious concern that Reed, vice president of southern resources, was pressuring for over-harvesting and false reporting to the detriment of the company’s environmental stewardship. Parker also allegedly expressed concern with Plum Creek’s lobbying over a controversial limerock blasting and mining project on its property.
The lawsuit said that Reed fired Parker in July 2009 because of his potential for bringing the issues to higher management. Parker still raised the issues with higher management, which apparently resulted in Reed not being promoted.
Williston Timber says it hired Parker, unaware of the feud, after which the company says Reed directed subordinates to terminate contracts with the Williston companies.