VALPARAISO | George Uzelac, owner of George Uzelac and Associates in Valparaiso, filed suit Wednesday against his son, Todd, and four others -- all of whom formerly worked for George Uzelac -- accusing them of stealing company information to set up a competing tax consulting company.
George Uzelac said the suit is not about a family feud but rather about "five guys who tried everything they could to destroy my company."
Uzelac has had the tax consulting company for 20 years, and Todd Uzelac worked for him from September 2000 until he was fired in January of this year.
"We have read the claims made in the suit and consider them to be a gross misstatement of fact," Todd Uzelac said. "As such, we will defend ourselves vigorously in court. This is a direct attempt by Mr. Uzelac and Uzelac and Associates to eliminate a competitor by tarnishing our names and reputation. It is unfortunate that one of those individuals happens to be his son.
"Each individual named in the lawsuit had been fired by Mr. Uzelac on or before January, including myself after 13 years of dedicated service," Todd Uzelac said in a written statement. "We plan to focus our efforts and energy on providing our clients with the highest possible service built on honesty, professionalism, experience and knowledge."
Also named in the suit were Kevin Schafer, of Chesterton; Dirk Rivera, Highland; Timothy Parish, Lowell and Rex Hume, Valparaiso. All work for Innovative Property Tax Solutions, the Merrillville company created by Todd Uzelac.
The suit alleges all five violated the confidentiality agreement of the Uzelac and Associates employee handbook by copying client information from the company's computers and taking that to the new business in order to solicit the company's clients.
Setting up a competing company also constituted a violation of their agreement with Uzelac and Associates.
Todd Uzelac also is accused of paying Rivera "$25,000 in excess salary for several years without company approval or the knowledge of George Uzelac." George Uzelac said the total amount of the damages to his company still is being tabulated.
The suit seeks recovery of the funds allegedly taken, treble damages, punitive damages, legal fees and other costs as well as injunctive relief. No court date has been set.