A pair of Ocean Casino Resort officials want a lawsuit filed against them tossed, according to a motion filed last week.
The duo — Cory Morowitz and Fred DeVesa, who are on the casino’s audit committee — were named in a lawsuit by Loretta Pickus, the casino’s ex-senior vice president and executive counsel. Pickus filed the lawsuit in September, claiming she was let go because she went to the state with information that the casino allegedly falsified documents related to a financial audit.
Gaetan Alfano, the lawyer for Morowitz and DeVesa, claims the casino did no such thing and that his clients should be removed from any lawsuits.
“As it is abundantly clear that plaintiff’s complaint does not allege facts to support any violations of law by Morowitz or DeVesa, one can only conclude that plaintiff’s claims constitute a retaliatory act against the committee members due to their good faith articulation of their concerns,” Alfano said in the motion.
Pickus, who was fired in January, also has a suit against Ocean’s parent company, Luxor Capital. Luxor, according to a Courier Post report, has also filed motions to dismiss the case.
Pickus is claiming unlawful termination because of her whistleblower status — i.e., going to the state with information — as well as gender discrimination.
A long and winding tale
This story all began in January 2019 with the hiring of a new director of surveillance. What’s notable about the hire, according to a tipster, is it was not made clear if the new employee, Mark Evans, was hired on a permanent or temporary basis. If it was temporary, his time would have legally ended in May.
In July, Pickus got the anonymous tip concerning Evans’ questionable status and went to the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), asking what the next steps should be.
Ten days later, members of the audit committee said they didn’t recall if the Evans hiring was permanent.
Shortly thereafter, in a filing to the DGE, a claim was made that Ocean management did not consult with the audit committee on Evans’ hiring, thereby violating the audit charter. At that point, the committee also claimed the hire was temporary. These claims stem from a July meeting of the committee.
But Pickus claims none of this was actually discussed in the meeting, thereby making the DGE filing simply untrue. According to Pickus, she was then instructed by Ocean CEO Terry Glebocki to write an amended version of the minutes of the meeting to correct the record.
Pickus alleges the audit committee rejected the revised minutes. In August, the DGE launched an investigation as to whether Ocean management violated the audit charter.
Pickus claims the committee was “confused” and that Evans was indeed a permanent hire, and it was around this time Pickus alleges Morowitz emailed DeVesa, saying in part that Pickus threw them “under the bus” and that “bottom line, we now have a toxic relationship with Loretta.”
In November, DGE chief David Rebuck sent a letter to Ocean management. Pickus claims Rebuck is a longtime pal of DeVesa and that there were factual misrepresentations in the letter.
Pickus claims Rebuck’s letter “inaccurately states the minutes for the Audit Committee meeting on January 17, 2019” and that they “indicate the committee was advised at that time that Mr. Evans would be ‘just filling in.’” The minutes, however, show Evans was to fill the role of the previous director of surveillance.
Things spiraled from here, with Pickus claiming she was disinvited at Rebuck’s request from a DGE/Ocean meeting. At that meeting, Pickus alleges, Rebuck basically told Ocean management to let Pickus go.
Pickus stayed on, however, and was given a year-end $20,000 bonus.
Audit meeting gone bad
A month later, Pickus attended another audit committee meeting. She claims she asked the committee to “correct its July 2019 Minutes and take responsibility for submitting false minutes to the DGE.”
Four days later, Pickus was fired. She was told it was due to her behavior at the meeting. But her lawsuit claims it was an illegal firing under whistleblower laws.
A hearing for Devesa and Morowitz’s pitch to have the lawsuit against them dismissed is scheduled for January.
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