Ex-Chamber Director Lawsuit Heads To Court

SNOW HILL – Civil proceedings pitting a former Ocean City Chamber of Commerce leader against his former employer over disputed financial arrangements dating back several years began in earnest in Worcester County Circuit Court this week.

Last April, former Ocean City Chamber Executive Director Daniel Barufaldi filed suit against the local chamber, alleging breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing in a contract, negligent misrepresentation and other charges related to his hiring, employment and eventual resignation. In the suit, Barufaldi alleges he was never offered a formal contract when hired in November 2005, nor were the terms of his employment ever finalized.

Barufaldi claims in the suit the rather vague terms of his employment with the chamber cost him a shot at a higher paying job about a year into his employment when the then-president produced a contract pre-dated to the start of his employment. Barufaldi resigned from the chamber under less than stellar terms in January 2007 and took a similar position with the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, who he worked with for a little over a year.

The trial began on Wednesday morning with jury selection and by Wednesday afternoon Barufaldi was on the stand to testify about the alleged events. Defense attorney William Hickey grilled Barufaldi about his past employment history, from a private sector job 30 years ago to a series of lesser-paying public sector jobs in the last decade or so including his chamber post.

“You left a $100,000 a year job as the director of sales and marketing in the private sector for the entire U.S.?” Hickey asked Barufaldi. “You had a job that paid you $100,000 plus bonuses, yet you came down here to Ocean City seeking a job for around $52,000?”

Barufaldi explained he was willing to take less because of all the chamber job had to offer.

“I came to Ocean City because it looked like a nice place to be with the beach and everything else,” he said. “On top of that, I wanted to work for a non-profit.”

When Hickey questioned Barufaldi about his employment agreement with the chamber, the former director said he had a verbal commitment but never a firm contract from the chamber. In the absence of the formal contract, Barufaldi claimed he prepared his own written document outlining the terms of his employment, which chamber officials never signed.

“In the absence of an employment agreement, I wanted a piece of paper that said I was hired and what the terms of employment were,” he said. “I didn’t want to take their word for it. I didn’t want to get hung out to dry, which is what happened in the end.”

Wednesday’s proceedings ended with Barufaldi still on the stand. Earlier in the trial, the plaintiffs entered a motion to preclude the defense’s expert witness from testifying, or in the alternative, to take a deposition from the expert witness before he could testify. At the close of the day on Wednesday, Judge Thomas Groton advised counsel on both sides to proceed with the deposition of the expert witness first thing on Thursday morning before the trial would resume.