Challenge Unlimited employee claims she was terminated for revealing financial records

Kelly Holleran Feb. 17, 2011, 4:00am

A former Challenge Unlimited employee has filed suit against the company and her former boss, alleging she was terminated after revealing financial secrets kept by the company's chief financial officer.

Patricia Stoddard claims she was working in defendant Challenge Unlimited's accounting department when she began to notice a number of discrepancies with the records.

In the lawsuit filed Feb. 8 in Madison County Circuit Court, Stoddard claims the company's chief financial officer, co-defendant Charlotte Jones, committed a number of irregularities and practices throughout her tenure, which resulted in a loss of books that should have been made available to the public.

For example, Jones purchased an annuity for $167,000 in her name instead of a certificate of deposit authorized as an investment vehicle. In addition, she showed Challenge's board one set of books while keeping the company's true financial state a secret and concealed the fact that an affiliated company lost more than $100,000 during 2009, according to the complaint.

While working for Challenge, Stoddard also claims she noticed Jones insisting that she keep certain fixed assets on Challenge's books so auditors' suspicions would not be raised, the suit states.

Jones made financial actions which were not authorized, and insisted that Stoddard book some $20,000 to $30,000 in revenues that did not exist, the complaint says.

In the fall of 2009, Stoddard claims she began working on financial statements and started to interact with outside auditors. On Sept. 21, 2009, Stoddard claims she sent a memorandum to Thomas Moehn and Jones, detailing her concerns about the secrecy of financial records, which should have been available to the public. Later that day, Stoddard claims she received a response from Jones, who screamed at her for five minutes, according to the complaint.

When it was time for the 2010 audit, Stoddard claims she provided auditors with copies of invoices evidencing affiliated companies' payments of professional fees, the suit states.

After Jones discovered that Stoddard provided the paperwork, Jones called Stoddard into her office to terminate her, the complaint says.

Because of her job loss, Stoddard suffered a loss of wages and has experienced stress, anxiety, worry and desperation, she claims.

In her complaint, Stoddard seeks a judgment of $500,000, plus punitive damages of $75,0000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Paul W. Johnson of the Offce of Paul W. Johnson in Belleville will be representing it.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-22.

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