MINNEAPOLIS -- Jack A. Haedicke, former executive vice president and chief financial and administrative officer for Nash Finch Co. here, is suing the distributor, claiming he was terminated after refusing to overstate the company's earnings in a financial report.
He is seeking unspecified damages exceeding $50,000 and a jury trial. Haedicke's annual base salary was $300,000 at the time of dismissal, according to court papers.
His attorney, Thomas A. Keller III, with the firm of Moss & Barnett here, said a trial could take place within 14 months, following a discovery period in which his firm will examine internal Nash Finch documents to support its claims and take depositions from potential witnesses.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court here, Haedicke said his employment was terminated after he "corrected certain irregularities" in the company's financial records and "declined to follow the directives of one or more [Nash Finch] officers... to take certain improper actions regarding those records, which would have had the effect of overstating the income and earnings of the company."
The complaint does not specify what the alleged irregularities were or what actions he was directed to take. Haedicke could not be reached for comment last week, and his attorney declined to amplify on statements in the complaint.
In a formal response to the complaint Nash Finch denied all the allegations. Company officials declined further comment when contacted last week by SN.
Haedicke joined Nash Finch in February 1999 after leaving his position as executive vice president and chief operating officer of OneSource, a third-party warehousing and consolidation division of C&S Wholesale Grocers, Brattleboro, Vt. At Nash Finch he was responsible for the financial and administrative functions of the company "and for insuring the integrity of [Nash Finch's] financial statements and financial practices," the complaint says.
According to the complaint, after Haedicke had refused to follow orders to alter the alleged financial errors, "the attitude of senior management...turned decidedly negative, and Haedicke was given a false negative performance review in retaliation for his actions."
The complaint says Nash Finch management "formulated a secret plan" to terminate Haedicke's employment, and when he learned of the plan on April 19, "he confronted his supervisor..., fully believing and expecting that such action would result in his immediate termination."
"[Nash Finch] did terminate Haedicke's employment immediately, falsely stating the reason for termination was poor performance," the complaint continues. "In fact, Haedicke was terminated in retaliation for his reports and activities relating to the financial records."
The complaint alleges Nash Finch breached Haedicke's employment agreement by failing to make certain agreed-to payments, including medical benefits and severance. It also says the company violated the state's Whistleblower Act by asking him to alter financial records "that he had an objective basis in fact to believe violated a federal or state law."
Haedicke also said in the complaint that Nash Finch defamed him by making statements "impugning [his] work performance, professional skills and abilities and reputation." In addition, he said statements made in his negative performance review and given as reasons for his termination "were made maliciously and for the purpose of causing harm and injury."