Chamber Seeks $500K From Ex-Director

SNOW HILL – Just weeks after a Worcester County jury returned a verdict in favor of a former Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce executive director forcing his former employer to pay $60,000 in damages, the organization filed a counter-claim against the plaintiff seeking $500,000 in damages.

At the close of a three-day trial in Circuit Court in April, a Worcester County jury awarded former Ocean City Chamber executive director Dan Barufaldi $60,000 in damages in the suit filed against his previous employer a year earlier alleging breach of contract and other charges related to his hiring, employment and eventual resignation from the post under unseemly conditions. Barufaldi was seeking an undisclosed amount of damages in the suit, but a source close to the case said the jury’s award was about half of what the former director was seeking, suggesting the final verdict represented a compromise of sorts by the jury in the complicated case.

In the suit, Barufaldi alleged he was never offered a formal contract when hired by the chamber in November 2005, nor were the terms of employment ever finalized. At issue were the conditions of his employment related to incentive bonuses for increased Chamber revenues from historic baselines under Barufaldi’s watch.

According to a source, Barufaldi was supposed to get 25 percent of the net increase in the Chamber’s revenue as an incentive bonus to his base salary of $52,000 per year, but Barufaldi contended in his suit he was supposed to get 25 percent of the gross increase in the chamber’s revenue. Incidentally, the issue was likely moot because the chamber did not realize any increase in revenue, gross or net, during Barufaldi’s term as executive director, according to a source.

Shortly after the conclusion of the trial in April, chamber officials said they were disappointed with the jury’s verdict, claiming the incentive language was not as nebulous as the plaintiff would have the jury believe. At the time, chamber officials suggested the organization might file an appeal with the state’s Court of Special Appeals, but last week took a different tack with the filing of a counter-claim against Barufaldi. The counter-claim alleges a breach of contract and an anticipatory breach of contract by the former executive director, in what essentially alleges claims against Barufaldi similar to those alleged by the former executive director against the Ocean City Chamber.

The counter claim filed by the chamber last week alleges Barufaldi breached his contract in a number of ways including, but not limited to, failing to provide all of the services and perform all duties requested by the chamber in the employment agreement; failing to faithfully, industriously and diligently provide all services and perform all duties requested by the chamber; electing to actively seek new employment while under contract with the chamber; and finally, failure to complete the three-year contract terms as identified in the agreement.

For that reason, the chamber’s counter-claim demands Barufaldi be found liable for breach of contract and demands an award of $500,000 or such an amount as proven at trial. The chamber’s counter-claim cites the damages Barufaldi caused by breaching the employment agreement.

“As a result of Barufaldi’s material breaches of the agreement, the defendant has suffered substantial business losses as well as damages to its reputation and standing within the community it serves,” the counter-claim reads.

The second element of the counter-claim filed by the chamber alleges Barufaldi’s “anticipatory breach of contract,” which essentially relates to his seeking another position while under contract with the Ocean City organization. According to the counter-claim, in July 2006, Barufaldi “applied for a vacant position as executive director of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, interviewed with the search committee, made a definitive promise that if he was selected, he would serve as executive director, and accepted the position when offered, all without the knowledge or express permission of the defendant.”

The chamber argues in its counter-claim, Barufaldi’s actions related to his future employment with the Charles County Chamber implies an anticipatory breach of his employment agreement.

“Barufaldi irreparably and materially breached his employment contract by engaging in an act of anticipatory breach of contract,” the counter-claim reads. “The plaintiff willfully and intentionally expressed by word and actions and asserted in unequivocal manifestation to repudiate one of the express terms of the employment contract.”

Again, for that reason, the Chamber is demanding Barufaldi be found liable for anticipatory breach of contract and demands an additional award of $500,000 or such an amount as can be proven at trial.