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Newton Falls Fine Paper pays Bunnell

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CANTON — Newton Falls Fine Paper has paid a former president more than $162,000 in settlement from his termination as an outside consultant.

State Supreme Court Justice David R. Demarest determined that Dennis R. Bunnell, Eastham, Mass., was due $98,567.23 plus interest, $40,000 in attorneys’ fees and nearly $5,000 for erroneous billing to his credit card for satellite television for one of the mill’s guest buildings.

In what Mr. Bunnell termed retaliatory, several months after he started legal action, Newton Falls directed the third party administrator of its group health insurance plan to terminate coverage for Mr. Bunnell and his wife, Kathleen N., even though he was paying the premiums.

“There is no dispute that the termination occurred before the expiration of the required period of coverage,” according to legal documents filed with the St. Lawrence County clerk’s office.

The health insurance was later reinstated.

Under Mr. Bunnell’s direction, Newton Falls Fine Paper reopened in 2007 after a seven-year shutdown.

“I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into getting that mill up and running,” Mr. Bunnell said.

He became an outside consultant in June 2009 under an agreement that he would work 18 months for the benefit of the company in exchange for an annual rate of $220,000, a car allowance and other benefits. Either party could terminate the agreement at any time but Newton Falls Fine Paper would continue to make payments to Mr. Bunnell for the remainder of the 18-month term as severance.

“It was clear on the face of the contract what rights I had,” Mr. Bunnell said. “They just chose not to honor it. I really don’t know the answer to why.”

In 2010, Mr. Bunnell took a job to help reopen St. Mary’s Paper in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. In court papers, Mr. Bunnell said he had assurances from Scott C. Travers, then the president of Newton Falls Fine Paper, that the job would not affect his payments, a contention denied by Mr. Travers.

Two days after Mr. Bunnell accepted the job, Newton Falls Fine Paper terminated the consulting agreement and ceased payments.

The company claimed that St. Mary’s was similar to its business because it had announced plans for a cogeneration project like the one being worked on at Newton Falls. Neither company ever obtained approvals to operate a cogenerator.

Newton Falls also argued that St. Mary’s might compete for some of the same market even though Newton Falls was making coated free sheet — used in books and catalogs — and St. Mary’s was going to produce a lower quality paper typically used as newspaper inserts.

Mr. Travers argued in legal documents that all paper companies are substantially similar and essentially in competition with each other but Judge Demarest determined the agreement did not contain a wholesale restriction prohibiting Mr. Bunnell’s employment in the pulp and paper industry.

Mr. Bunnell also claimed $4,899.51 for a four-year period in which his credit card was wrongly billed for satellite television and Internet service for which the company refused to reimburse him.

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