Join Date: Nov 2007
Richard Dawkins sues Josh Timonen
Quoting some important bits from the full 18-page complaint lodged by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) and by Richard Dawkins himself, in order to be able to later comment upon the Complaint and the civil case, fir the purposes of fair comment.
.....SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES (NORTH CENTRAL DISTRICT)
THE RICHARD DAWKINS FOUNDATION FOR REASON AND SCIENCE, a Delaware Charitable Corporation, and CLINTON RICHARD DAWKINS (commonly known as RICHARD DAWKINS), an individual,
JOSH TIMONEN, an individual, MAUREEN NORTON, an individual, UPPER BRANCH PRODUCTIONS, INC., a California Corporation, and DOES 1-50,
(1) BREACH OF ORAL CONTRACT;
(2) BREACH OF THE IMPLIED COVENANT OF
GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING;
(3) BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY;
(5) EMBEZZLEMENT (CONVERSION);
(6) DECLARATORY RELIEF; and
(7) IMPOSITION OF A CONSTRUCTIVE TRUST.
1. Plaintiff Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (“RDFRS” or the “US Foundation”) is, and at all material times was, a private 501(c)(3) charitable corporation incorporated in the State of Delaware.
At various times relevant to the facts alleged in this Complaint, the Executive Director of RDFRS has been Robin Cornwell, PhD, and its Trustees have included Richard Dawkins, DPhil, J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., M.D., Claire Enders, Todd Stiefel and Greg Langer, Esq.
2. Plaintiff Clinton Richard Dawkins (commonly known as Richard Dawkins) is, and at all material times was, an individual residing in Oxford, England. Professor Dawkins is an internationally renowned evolutionary biologist, university professor, lecturer, award winning intellectual and best-selling author, and perhaps the world’s best known and most respected atheist. Professor Dawkins is the founder of the US Foundation as well as its United Kingdom sister organization the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Ltd. (the “UK Foundation”). The UK Foundation has the same charitable, political and educational goals as the US Foundation and is a “Registered Charity” in Great Britain.
3. Defendants Josh Timonen (“Timonen”) and Maureen Norton (“Norton”) are, and at all material times were, individuals working and residing in the County of Los Angeles, State of California.
4. Defendant Upper Branch Productions, Inc. (“UBP”) is, and at all material times was, a California Corporation with its principal place of business located in the County of Los Angeles, State of California. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and therefore allege that UBP is wholly owned and controlled by Defendant Timonen.
5. The true names and/or capacities, whether individual, corporate, associate or otherwise, of defendants named herein as Does 1 through 50, inclusive, are unknown to Plaintiffs at this time. Plaintiffs therefore sue these Defendants, and each of them, by such fictitious names.
8. According to Timonen’s own records and written admissions, Richard Dawkins paid him the following sums for his personal services: $20,000 in November 2006, $20,000 in May 2007, $20,000 in February 2008 and $25,000 in January 2009. Richard Dawkins also paid Timonen an
additional $25,000 in early 2010 to cover all of Timonen’s services to be provided to Professor Dawkins personally for all of calendar year 2010. In total, Richard Dawkins has paid Timonen $130,000 for personal services.
9. According to Timonen’s own records and written admissions, RDFRS has paid him the following sums for his personal services: $5,000 per month from February 2008 through October 2009 (a total of $105,000) and $2,885 every 2 weeks – an annualized rate of $75,000 – from November 2009 through May 2010 (a total of $43,750). In all, RDFRS paid Timonen $148,750 for
slightly more than two years of work.
10. Altogether, Timonen received $278,750 of compensation directly from Richard Dawkins and RDFRS over approximately 3.5 years (an average of nearly $80,000 per year). Plaintiffs are informed and believe and therefore allege that this rate of annual compensation was exceedingly generous and well above-market for someone of Timonen’s age and experience, particularly for someone providing the bulk of his efforts to a charitable organization.
11. Plaintiffs and Timonen agreed at all times that Timonen was acting as an independent contractor for them and would be personally responsible for covering his own health insurance needs and state and federal taxes. He was, at all times, provided Form 1099's and otherwise properly treated as an independent contractor.
13. On or about May 22, 2010, Timonen notified Plaintiffs he was ceasing all work for them.
14. Despite repeated oral and written demands, Timonen has failed and refused to repay to Richard Dawkins the unearned (7/12ths) portion of the $25,000 lump sum payment Professor Dawkins paid him for work throughout 2010. Consequently, Timonen presently owes Richard Dawkins $14,583.33.
15. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and therefore allege that Defendants Norton and Timonen are cohabiting and have been, at all material times, romantically involved with one another. Norton is significantly older than Timonen and has young adult children.
16. Norton is a “post-production supervisor” and has worked in that capacity consistently since at least 1997. Norton has never been in contractual privity with Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs have never hired her or instructed her to do any work on their behalf or account. Norton has, nonetheless, assisted Timonen in some of his responsibilities to RDFRS, purportedly as a “volunteer.”
21. In 2007, RDFRS and Timonen agreed it would be a good idea to create an online store (“The Store”) to help market the “Growing Up in the Universe” DVDs, T-shirts, caps, mugs, pins and other merchandise related to RDFRS’ mission and charitable goals.
22. At the time, RDFRS’ Trustees believed that legal requirements (particularly controls imposed on Richard Dawkins and the UK Foundation by the British Charities Commission) made it legally impermissible for The Store to be operated by RDFRS. This information was shared with Timonen and he agreed to use his personal corporation UBP to operate The Store for RDFRS’ benefit.
25. During UBP’s operation of The Store, Defendants repeatedly represented to Plaintiffs that Norton was spending a great deal of uncompensated time on Store business to benefit RDFRS. Defendants further represented that Norton was suffering financially because she could not devote full-time efforts to her work as a post-production supervisor in the film industry.
Indeed, the Trustees of RDFRS were so impressed with Norton’s supposed “volunteer” efforts and so sympathetic to her purported fiscal plight that they authorized a payment to her of $10,000 as thanks for her efforts in connection with an RDFRS fund-raising event held in Menlo Park, California
30. Plaintiffs’ review of the financial records Defendants provided resulted in their discovery of a plethora of shocking financial improprieties Defendants had perpetrated over the years. For example:
a. Defendants charged tens of thousands of dollars of unnecessary and unauthorized expenses against the proceeds from the Store (which belonged to RDFRS). These included a $201.50 charge at Whole Foods in Las Vegas, $248.95 at Katsuya in Hollywood, $498.97 for a meal at Michael Mina’s XIV in Hollywood, $202.15 at L’Atelier de Joel at the MGM Grand hotel, charges at an Arizona shoe store, bills from Timberline Lodge in Oregon and the Malibu Beach Inn, as well as a weight reduction program (or weight loss
meals) purchased from Freshology, Inc.
b. Defendants used $27,826.50 of RDFRS’s money to pay for health insurance from Blue Cross/Blue Shield. As alleged above, it was always Timonen’s obligation to provide his own health insurance and Plaintiffs never agreed to fund health insurance for Norton or anyone else from the revenues generated by The Store.
c. Defendants used RDFRS’s money (generated by The Store) to pay “salaries” of at least $43,000 to Timonen and $168,509.08 to Norton – including an astonishing $73,941.18 in 2009 alone.
d. Defendants paid another $103,000 to “CSL” (much of it denominated “officer salaries” or “wages” in UBP’s QuickBooks records). Plaintiffs are informed and believe and therefore allege that Timonen and Norton either received these “CSL” funds directly, or personally benefitted from them.
e. Defendants paid an additional $29,045 to Graham Norton (Maureen Norton’s teenage son), $300 to “Michelle Norton,” $350 to “Brittany Norton,” $1,102.75 to Ohana Farms (a business Plaintiffs believe to be owned by Maureen Norton’s parents) and $64.90 to “Pondbiz.”
31. In summary, over approximately 3.5 years of operating The Store, Defendants consumed or expended at least $375,000 of the profits generated to personally benefit themselves and their relatives. Meanwhile, they “contributed” only $30,000 from The Store’s net receipts to RDFRS. Put another way, Defendants kept at least 92% of the positive cash flow generated by The Store themselves and paid less than 8% to RDFRS.
33. On July 15, 2010, Defendants’ lawyer, Alan Abrams, Esq., sent an email to Plaintiffs’ litigation counsel suggesting that “the RDF website (which . . . was created by Mr. Timonen) . . ., merchandise using the RDF logo created by Mr. Timonen, and audio-visual and musical materials created and produced by Mr. Timonen” are all “Mr. Timonen’s intellectual property rights” which have not been transferred or assigned to RDFRS or Professor Dawkins.
34. In fact, all “intellectual property” Defendant Timonen created for Plaintiffs at all times and for any purposes a “work for hire” commissioned and paid for by Plaintiffs. Consequently, any copyrights, trademarks or other intellectual property rights pertaining to logos, merchandise, “audio-visual or musical materials created and produced by Mr. Timonen” for The Store, RDFRS or Richard Dawkins belong to Plaintiffs.
41. Plaintiffs are informed and believe and therefore allege that Defendants invested tens of thousands of dollars (and possibly more than $100,000) of the funds they embezzled from Plaintiffs on improvements to the residence Norton owns at 4532 Mary Ellen Avenue, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423, legally described as Parcel # 2360028027, Tract No. 10117, Lot 172 (the “Mary Ellen House”). A recent real estate listing for this property describes some of the improvements Defendants paid for with funds embezzled from Plaintiffs as a “custom backyard pool and spa area with a wonderful waterfall and glass block fire pit plus custom seating for the ultimate outdoor living and entertaining experience.”
45. As a direct and proximate result of Timonen’s breaches of the contract alleged above, Plaintiff Richard Dawkins has been and will be damaged in an amount not yet ascertained, but which he is informed and believes and therefore alleges equals at least $14,583.33, plus interest at the legal rate commencing on June 1, 2010.
49. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ breaches of the contract alleged above, Plaintiff RDFRS has been and will be damaged in an amount not yet ascertained, but which it is informed and believes and therefore alleges exceeds $375,000.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for judgment as follows:
ON ALL CAUSES OF ACTION
1. For costs of suit; and
2. For such other, further or different relief as the Court may deem proper.
3. For general and actual damages in excess of $14,583.33, plus interest at the legal rate commencing on June 1, 2010, according to proof.
4. For general and actual damages in excess of $375,000, according to proof.
5. For general and actual damages in excess of $500,000, according to proof; and
6. For exemplary damages, according to proof.
7. For a judgment declaring all the Contested Rights belong to Plaintiffs and invalidating any purported or recorded claim of Defendants in or to the Contested Rights.
8. For a judgment declaring Defendants, jointly and severally, hold the Purloined Proceeds and any profits or proceeds derived from them (including, without limitation, the Mary Ellen House) as constructive trustees for Plaintiffs’ benefit.
DATE: September 27, 2010 By: ________________________________________
Attorney for Plaintiffs
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and Richard Dawkins
Last edited by Gurdur; 25-Oct-2010 at 05:08 PM (17:08).