Crown family brought into feud between Aspen Skiing Co., Lee Mulcahy
December 11, 2013
A former Aspen Skiing Co. instructor who is engaged in a running feud with his ex-employer made progress last week getting Skico Managing Partner Jim Crown and his wife, Paula, added to a civil lawsuit.
Lee Mulcahy sued the Crowns and Aspen Skiing Co. on April 16, 2012, but he was never able to serve the Crowns with the lawsuit. Mulcahy, who is representing himself in the legal matter, filed a motion on July 29, asking a judge to allow him to serve the Crowns in alternative ways rather than having someone hand them the lawsuit directly.
Pitkin County District Judge Daniel Petre last week approved Mulcahy's motion for substituted service of process upon the Crowns.
"Submissions by Mr. Mulcahy, including an affidavit, demonstrate that he has made substantial efforts to personally serve process and subpoenas upon the Crowns in this matter," Petre wrote in his Dec. 2 order. "Service has been attempted at personal and business addresses in both Aspen, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois, but those efforts have been futile."
Petre said Mulcahy had achieved due diligence in trying to serve the notice of litigation. He also found it was legitimate to serve Jim and Paula Crown as representatives of the family that owns Skico. "On the record before it, it appears that one or both of them own all, or a substantial interest in, ASC," the order said. "As a result, the Chief Executive Officer of ASC, Mike Kaplan, is an appropriate person to receive personal service on behalf of the Crowns."
The judge gave Mulcahy until Dec. 5 to try to serve the Crowns by sending them his legal complaint by regular mail to their last-known residential address, to their last-known business address, to any current residential address provided by the Skico attorney and by personal service on Kaplan.
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Mulcahy didn't return a telephone message from The Aspen Times on Tuesday for comment on whether he achieved those methods of service.
Earlier in the process, Mulcahy served Kaplan with the lawsuit by having his father, Bud Mulcahy, hand the document to Kaplan at the end of a Pitkin County commissioners meeting. Kaplan attended the Skico's annual fall briefing of the county commissioners on issues of interest. Bud Mulcahy sat through the presentation, then approached Kaplan after it was finished and handed him the lawsuit. Kaplan was served as CEO of Skico.
Petre gave the Crowns 35 days from the filing of a certificate of service to respond to Mulcahy's lawsuit.
Skico attorney Edward Ramey argued against the substituted service. His motion said Mulcahy didn't demonstrate that he made a bona fide effort to serve the Crowns.
Ramey also argued that Skico was the only entity that should be involved in the case because any potential remedial action would have to be taken by the company, not the Crowns.
"James and Paula Crown have simply been alleged to be 'owners' — in fact incorrect — or (with regard to James Crown) a managing director of Ski Co," Skico's attorney wrote. "This is little different from naming and attempting to serve the individual officers, members of the Board of Directors, or shareholders of Microsoft to address an action taken by Microsoft."
Ramey said Tuesday that the Crowns wouldn't necessarily be parties to the lawsuit even if they are served. Their attorney could file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against them on grounds that there are no claims against them.
Mulcahy filed the lawsuit to seek declaratory and injunctive relief from Skico and the Crowns over Skico's alleged violation of his right to free speech. Mulcahy was a top-rated ski instructor who got into a fight with Skico brass. He claimed Skico retaliated against him after he explored creating a union for ski instructors and complained about the wages of entry-level workers. Skico said Mulcahy's performance was the issue.
He was suspended on Dec. 30, 2010, and banned from Skico property after he handed out leaflets promoting unionization for Skico employees. Skico told him the firm would pursue criminal trespass charges if he entered its property, including the land it leases in national forest area.
Mulcahy responded that the ban for handing out leaflets violated his right to free speech and violated the National Labor Relations Act. Skico denies it violated his rights.
Mulcahy was fired Jan. 27, 2011.
He is asking a judge to rule that Skico cannot ban him from its property and award him one dollar in punitive damages plus legal fees and costs.
While serving as his own attorney, some of Mulcahy's motions are sprinkled with colorful wording rarely seen in legal documents.
"Few, if any, private entities in modern times have established a fiefdom such as is overseen by Skico," Mulcahy wrote in one motion.
He later added, "Nor has any modern private entity evidenced the hubris of Skico in trying to make an example of Plaintiff, a bible-studying Eagle Scout who actively manages charitable missions to dig water wells in Africa, by publicly threatening criminal prosecution should he inadvertently cross unmarked lines running throughout Aspen and thousands of acres of surrounding forest land, the location of which are known only to Skico, as retaliation for Plaintiff's turning to State and Federal agencies to force Defendant to comply with federal and state labor laws, and/or promoting unionization of Skico employees."
Ramey said no trial date has been set yet. "Everything is on hold until we determine if the Crowns are in or out of the case," he said.