Gubernatorial candidate faces lawsuit from former employee, files counter suit

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected].

More by....

When Eric Deters hired Kevin Harris in May of 2021, Deters promised Harris a one-year contract and other financial incentives to run a new startup company.

Harris is now suing the former Kentucky lawyer turned gubernatorial candidate because he says he didn’t receive what he was promised as part of that contract.

The lawsuit details Harris’ professional relationship with Deters and his company, Bulldog Restoration Company, which later became Crimson Builders Company. In response, Deters filed his own lawsuit against Harris that claims Harris didn’t perform the job he was hired to do.

Harris is seeking restitution for breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and uniform fraudulent transfer act. The last charge deals with Deters’ company being insolvent and passing off the assets to insiders, relatives, affiliates, and others. 

“These transfers were made with the actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud the Plaintiff, who is a creditor of Deters and the Company,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. 

But that’s not the whole story, Deters told LINK nky. Deters provided a copy of a counter lawsuit ahead of its filing Wednesday.

“The company failed because Kevin Harris was a lazy ass and he couldn’t do it,” Deters said. “He didn’t do anything the way he claimed that he would do and they’re suing me.”

The company’s website, which is still live, refers to Harris as “a prime example of stellar work ethic with an unmatched attitude – all for the customers he serves.”

But, Deters said, the lawsuit is a joke.

“I have filed my counterclaim,” Deters told LINK, elaborating that he is filing the counter suit Wednesday. “I’m not the least worried about it and I’m suing. I’m suing the lawyers for filing it.”

Those attorneys are Chris Wiest, Zach Gottesman, and Thomas Bruns. 

“Chris [Wiest] is a personal enemy of mine and the reason why he’s an enemy of mine is because I point out that he was a criminal doing insider stock trading,” Deters said. 

Wiest, who has represented Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) in a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) for a mask mandate, was suspended by the Ohio and Kentucky bar associations for insider trading, according to an article in Politico.

Wiest has since been reinstated by both bar associations after paying more than $115,000 in civil penalties. 

Deters is counter suing for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and libel. In his suit, Deters said the lawsuit is a political vendetta and sets out to embarrass him.

“When you run for governor people think that you’re a target and they think they can get away with saying anything,” Deters said. “The lawsuit doesn’t bother me, by the way, one single bit. I’m used to this crap. This is what my enemies tried to do to me. It doesn’t faze me one bit.”

Though he signed a contract that said he would be paid $200,000 over the course of a year, Harris was only paid a total of $107,228.55 in salary, according to the lawsuit. Harris is seeking the remaining $92,771.45, plus additional damages, for the breach of contract and the 40 percent interest in the company he was promised. 

“It was supposed to be a year,” Deters said, “but he sucked so bad I couldn’t wait a year. He breached his contract by not doing the job right.”

Perfect man to run the company

Deters approached Harris in 2020, according to the lawsuit, when Harris was a federal employee and owned a contracting company that had experience with disaster relief response. Deters asked Harris to leave his job and come work for him at his new startup, Bulldog Restoration.

Harris declined, he said in the lawsuit, before Deters approached him again in 2021.

“Deters said that Plaintiff was the perfect man to run this new Company because it was construction-related and Plaintiff had been running his own general contracting company,” Harris’ lawsuit reads.

But Harris, who declined to speak with LINK nky for this story, didn’t want to leave his government job because he had a six-figure salary and a solid retirement package. That didn’t deter Deters, who kept trying to convince Harris to come work with him, according to the lawsuit.

More news:  Deadline for Covington small business incentives ends Dec. 29

“What if I made it worth your while to come work for me?” Deters allegedly said to Harris, who noted the offer would need to be substantial to get him to leave his job.

“He hated his government job,” Deters said. “His work ethic is more favorable for a government job of sitting around and doing nothing, but he wanted out of his government job.”

On April 11, 2021, Deters sent Harris an email that showed 911 Restoration, a franchise based out of California, had accepted Deters as a franchisee. Several days later, Deters invited Harris to the land where the new company would be built, which Deters had just purchased. 

“Deters made it a point to tell Plaintiff he paid cash – over $479,000 for it,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. 

During the same visit, Deters told Harris he purchased three local 911 Restoration franchise territories, according to the suit. 911 Restoration is a company that provides nationwide restoration services through franchisees. Customers typically use them after a disaster has occurred.

“What if I offered you a $100,000 a year salary?” Deters asked Harris, according to Harris’ lawsuit. Harris reportedly responded that it would have to be a much more substantial offer. 

In the days following, Harris showed Deters that he was scheduled to make around $167,000 in 2020 and was on track to earn approximately $170,000 to $173,000 in 2021, which didn’t include his government retirement. 

Harris told Deters he would need a substantial amount to walk away from his 26-year career in the government. 

“Plaintiff also said that amount would be an awful lot to be paying out for a new startup company that initially was not making money,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. “Plaintiff also said he did not feel that was a good idea.”

Deters had his secretary print off a financial statement to prove to Deters he could afford Harris’ wages, according to Harris’ lawsuit. The information showed that Deters’ net worth was around $23 million, he had multiple bank accounts, and in one he had over $2 million in cash. He wanted to let Harris know he could afford “any amount,” according to the lawsuit.

“I’m not showing this to you to brag or show off,” Deters said to Harris, according to the lawsuit. “I am showing it to you so that you can see I can afford to pay you whatever I want regardless if this company makes money. I want you to feel confident I am not going to screw you and that you will get paid.”

But these statements weren’t true, according to Harris’ lawsuit. 

“For the avoidance of all doubt, Deters knowingly made the false statements of fact contained in the preceding paragraphs, which statements were false when Deters made them, in order to induce Plaintiff to rely on them,” Harris’ lawsuit reads.

Deters said he would make Harris an “offer he couldn’t refuse” and to look for one in his email in the morning. That offer included a $200,000 a year salary starting on May 3, 2021, with a 10 percent stake in the new company and 10 percent of any other company that Deters started. 

Harris requested that Deters put the request in writing. 

“On April 21, 2021, Plaintiff detrimentally relied on Deters’ knowingly false representations and promises made previously, and those contained in this new offer agreed to accept the new offer and signed it,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. 

Burning through cash

Harris walked away from his government job and started working for Deters. There were warning signs immediately, according to Harris’ lawsuit: He said Deters wanted to pay for everything with cash and didn’t want to be on the new company’s bank account, but needed to be one of the company’s owners. 

In late spring and early summer of 2021, Deters bought two new trucks, each costing $89,000, the lawsuit says. He also wrote checks for the equipment totaling around $60,000. 

More news:  Florence police No Shave November fundraiser yields $2,608

“Plaintiff, as well as others, cautioned Deters several times about the rate at which Deters was burning through cash on the Company and several other companies Deters was starting up at the same time,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. “In response, Deters insisted the Company purchase everything brand new, and he would be paying cash.”

The two vans were to be used by two new technicians. Deters told Harris to purchase himself a company truck, and Harris put down a cash deposit on a Ford F-250 with company money. 

“However, when the truck was delivered at the end of June or beginning of July, Deters decided he wanted to finance the vehicle instead of paying cash,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. “The dealership tried several different finance companies but could not get Deters approved. Deters then reached out to several of his own banks and could not get financing.”

Harris was then informed that he would have to use his own truck, the lawsuit states. 

Deters expected the company to make money, but he was having a hard time writing checks every two months from his personal accounts for payroll and materials by August 2021, the lawsuit says.

That same month, Deters fired an unnamed friend who was serving as vice president of the company in order to save money, Harris’ lawsuit reads. Deters also wanted Harris to take a pay cut, but the lawsuit claims Deters said Harris could cut himself a big bonus check at Christmastime.

“Deters stated that Plaintiff could write himself a big bonus check at Christmas to make up for the shortfall, or after the first of the year when outstanding client checks came in, or at the latest, at the end of the contract term,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. “Plaintiff agreed to this with the understanding that Plaintiff would still get the full amount of the contract ($200,000) for one year.”

With both parties agreeing, Deters thanked Harris for his concessions and offered him 40 percent of the company, according to the lawsuit. 

“At the time he made the above promises, Deters had no intention of fulfilling his promise to transfer to Plaintiff 40% ownership in the Company,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. 

Harris’ salary dropped from $7,692.31 every two weeks to $5,208.30 starting the pay period of Aug. 22, 2021. 

Going rogue 

The Christmas bonus never came for Harris; on Dec. 27, Deters called him in for a meeting, according to the lawsuit. Deters immediately told Harris he was going ‘rogue’ from his franchise obligations with 911 Restoration, the lawsuit states.

He was going to strip the truck’s logo and rewrap it in his crimson logo, and the company would operate on its own as Crimson Restoration, a division of Deters’ company Crimson Builders. 

“While the national franchisor had been referring jobs to Deters, Deters indicated that the Company would continue to do those jobs, but as soon as the Company received the outstanding checks owed to them by the national company, the Company would leave its association with the franchisor,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. 

The 911 Restoration Franchise National Accounts owed Deters and company $125,000 in outstanding work, according to the suit. Harris was given strict orders not to say anything about the change in the company, especially to 911 Restoration National Headquarters. Deters would allegedly tell them they quit after receiving the checks. 

On the same day in December, Deters told Harris that he would now be working with Travis and Chad Fuller, Deters’ son-in-law. Travis would be setting up the company Crimson Builders. Harris was under explicit orders not to tell the employees about the changes, and Deters would pay him out of his own pocket until February of 2022. 

Business as usual

The day after the meeting with Deters, Harris received a new contract job from 911 Restoration, and Harris assigned it to an employee named Colin. But, Colin had already been contacted by Deters’ son-in-law Chad to bring back the company van and equipment, which would be stripped and replaced with the new logo. 

More news:  Christmas Past: Historic photos show what the holidays used to be like in NKY

“Plaintiff called and texted both Deters and Chad but received no response,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. “Finally, Chad called and said he decided to let Colin go but was keeping Brad, another employee of the Company.”

On Dec. 29, Harris was called into Deters’ office, where Deters, Chad, and Travis were present, the lawsuit says. Deters allegedly informed Harris that he would continue to be paid on two-week intervals, but that he should start looking for another job. 

“Deters instructed Plaintiff to turn everything over to Chad and Travis immediately, that Deters was no longer putting any more money into the Company, and that Deters was going to transition the business into a new company, Crimson Builders Company,” Harris’ lawsuit reads. 

Deters then allegedly handed Harris a piece of paper and said, “I wrote this, but I want you to type this exactly as it is here and send it to [911 Restoration] HQ copying me, Mike Martin [the accountant], Chad, and Travis on the email.”

The paper allegedly contained an email saying Harris was quitting, even though he wasn’t. 

“It was always the plan here that once I helped get it up and running, Chad Fuller and Michael Martin, involved in the original Zoom call, would take over. Effective immediately, I’m leaving the company. They, along with Travis Lenhoff, will be running the show with our men still doing the work,” the email allegedly written by Deters reads. 

According to the lawsuit, Harris was then ordered to turn over all equipment and clean out his desk. He asked Chad how he was supposed to do his job, but Chad said he was just instructed to take the equipment and start running the company. He also asked if Harris had sent the email. 

But Harris didn’t want to write the email because it wasn’t true. Chad told Harris he would have to discuss it with Deters. 

“To be honest, I do not feel comfortable sending the letter as it states I am quitting, and I am not quitting. I have a one-year contract with Deters, and that contract does not end until May 3,” Harris said to Chad Fuller. 

Shortly after, Harris got a phone call from Deters. 

“I went by your office and saw that you cleaned out your desk and personal items,” Deters asked. 

Harris informed Deters that Chad had told him to clean out his desk.

“Chad also told me you would not send that email I told you to send, so I sent it for you. As of today, you do not work here,” Deters said, the lawsuit states. “Chad also told me you said you have a one-year contract with me. Well, I am not paying you another dime, you can sue me, and I will countersue you, and I will make your life miserable!! Where we go from here on that is up to you!”

‘To the three nimrods’ 

In an amended complaint filed in Kenton County in Harris’ lawsuit, there’s a letter from Deters and he calls the three attorneys representing Harris “The Three Nimrods.” 

He informed the court and the attorneys that his counterclaim – scheduled to be filed Wednesday – would come, thanking them for not having professional courtesy for a retired lawyer, even though Deters was suspended from practicing in Ohio and Kentucky. 

“Kevin Harris is the reason my attempt at 911 failed,” Deters wrote in the letter. “You will soon learn the real story. “What he has represented to you is not only a misrepresentation, he left out all of his ‘misdeeds.'”

He then says he will be representing himself, and he will “NEVER” pay a dime until there’s a trial verdict and all appeals are exhausted.

“The two Defendant Corporations no longer exist,” Deters writes. “In addition, ALL of my substantial wealth, and it is substantial, you will hate to know, is in a trust.

“So, therefore, even if you win and you won’t, you will never collect a dime. 

“You can all go (expletive) yourselves.”

More articles

More by...

Latest articles

In Case You Missed It