A member of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents and former head of Pelco Structural is accused of embezzling millions from the company in a Rogers County court filing.
Phil Albert, who left Claremore-based Pelco Structural in April, filed suit against the company Nov. 1 alleging he was wrongfully fired. At the time, however, neither Albert nor Stephen Parduhn, president and CEO of parent company Pelco Products, would comment on the nature of Albert's exit.
But in a response and countersuit filed Monday, attorneys for Pelco Structural accused Albert of embezzling at least $7.4 million from the company from 2010 until he left the company.
Paul DeMuro, Albert's attorney, said in a news release the case is a "business divorce" after Albert was forced from the company.
"Like in many divorces, emotions run high and inflammatory allegations are made," DeMuro said. "We intend to pursue vigorously Mr. Albert's claims, and separate the wheat from the chaff on the claims against him."
Attorneys representing Pelco Structural did not return a request for comment. Albert has not been criminally charged in the case, though attorneys for Pelco Structural are seeking civil action for fraud, Computer Crimes Act violations, as well as theft and embezzlement.
It is also alleged Albert conspired with a former controller at Pelco Structural who helped conceal the embezzlement and took unauthorized payments from Albert, according to court filings.
Albert alleged in his lawsuit that he was fired after alerting the company to a $15 million to 20 million liability claim from NextEra Energy, the parent company of Florida Power & Light Co.
Albert traveled to Florida in late March to meet with NextEra concerning the claimed failure of Pelco Structural poles, according to court documents. He also reportedly advised that the company hadn't met specifications for post-galvanizing inspections that would have identified how likely the poles were to fail.
In the countersuit, attorneys for Pelco Structural stated the company "is without sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations and therefore denies same."
Pelco Structural attorneys claimed Albert received unauthorized payments described as "reimbursements" of at least $3.3 million, according to court filings.
Albert is also reportedly accused of charging $2 million of personal expenses, including for jewelry, political and charitable donations, and travel on Pelco Structural credit cards.
Albert opened the steel pole manufacturing business in 2005 with Phil Parduhn, Stephen Parduhn's father, and was appointed to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents in 2016 by Gov. Mary Fallin. Albert transitioned from accounting to manufacturing in 1981 and served as chairman of the Tulsa Regional Chamber in 2017.