PORTLAND — Maine’s largest medical marijuana nonprofit group has retaliated against its former backer, denying it has outstanding loans and countersuing for monetary awards.

Northeast Patients Group’s answer to a complaint by Berkeley Patients Group was filed Monday in Cumberland County Superior Court by Stephen Langsdorf, an Augusta-based lawyer for Preti Flaherty.

The filing says Northeast Patients Group wants a judge to dismiss four of eight counts alleged by Berkeley Patients Group.

All other claims were filed against Executive Director Becky DeKeuster, and so were left unanswered by Northeast Patients Group.

Langsdorf’s answer asks the court to dismiss Berkeley’s claims for repayment of debt, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and use of confidential information.

In July, California-based Berkeley sued Northeast and DeKeuster. It claimed more than $632,000 in unpaid loans, saying DeKeuster used Berkeley’s proprietary information to negotiate a financing deal with ex-NBA player Cuttino Mobley while serving as New England expansion director for Berkeley. It also asked that DeKeuster be removed from her post.

Langsdorf said Tuesday that Northeast did receive some of the $632,000 which Berkeley claims it provided — and used it to pay lavish expenses for Berkeley officials. Langsdorf said those expenses included Boston Red Sox tickets and first-class airline travel for Berkeley’s CEO, Timothy Schick, a Maine native.

“So, there are some things we don’t think are recoverable,” Langsdorf said.

The answer denies that DeKeuster got advances of loans from Berkeley on Northeast’s behalf and denies Berkeley’s claim that DeKeuster acted to “secure outside assistance and usurp opportunities belonging to her employer.”

Notably, a counterclaim asks the court to award Northeast damages allegedly caused by Berkeley’s failure to provide adequate capital.

The counterclaim alleges that a lack of funding by Berkeley was the main reason there was a delay in Northeast’s starting its growing and retail operations. As a result, Northeast had to seek another financial backer, Langsdorf said.

“It isn’t just the counterclaim, it’s the defense for the case,” he said. “The intention was clearly for there to be collaboration.”

In a written statement, Charles Remmel, the Portland-based lead attorney for Berkeley Patients Group, assailed the counterclaim.

“Ms. DeKeuster turned aside other sources of capital and expertise, including those from Maine citizens, and violated the terms and expectations of her employment agreement with Berkeley Patients Group,” the statement said.

DeKeuster’s employment contract with Berkeley showed she had a two-year, no-compete agreement if she left Berkeley. She negotiated a letter of intent between Northeast and Mobley in February, then resigned from Berkeley days later.

Langsdorf said the damages Northeast seeks from Berkeley are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, though he said he couldn’t provide an exact figure.

Langsdorf said he doesn’t expect the case to go to trial until the first half of 2013.

 

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5662 or at: [email protected]