Strategic consulting and lobbying firm Strategies 360 Inc. is suing two former Idaho employees for stealing its clients.
The Seattle-based firm accuses John Foster and Kate Haas of breach of contract, violation of the Idaho Trade Secrets Act, breach of duty and loyalty, and breach of duty and confidentiality.
Strategies 360 fired Foster and Haas in early February, not long after Foster announced plans to work for Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter on promoting an Idaho education reform plan. In the complaint, filed in Ada County Fourth District Court in Boise, Strategies 360 said the two worked with “an unauthorized client.”
The lobbying and consulting company is known for working with Democratic and “progressive” clients, such as employee unions.
Foster, who has set up a new consulting shop with Haas, said the lawsuit is baseless.
“Honesty, integrity, discretion and candor are at the forefront of the work that we do, and those values are the foundation of the relationships we build,” Foster said in a statement. “That is why it is so disappointing to see our former employer reject those values by engaging in unfounded, destructive and public litigation. We were completely forthcoming in all that we did for Strategies 360, and are confident that we will prevail.”
Strategies 360 wants the court to award financial damages exceeding $10,000, plus interest and attorney’s fees. The company also seeks a court injunction barring them from using Strategies 360’s confidential or trade-secret information, destroying documents or information, and unfairly competing. Boise attorneys Shelly C. Shannahan and Christine Salmi of the Perkins Coie firm filed an original complaint Feb. 28 and an amended version with clarifying language March 2.
The complaint says Foster and Haas signed agreements stating that if they were fired, they could not compete with Strategies 360 for a year. After they were fired in February, however, Strategies 360 closed down its Boise operation. It has no other offices in Idaho.
The two have started a new firm in Boise called Kestrel West. The complaint alleges that the new firm has solicited clients from Strategies using confidential information, such as customer lists.
The Idaho Business Review contacted representatives for several of Foster and Haas’ former and current clients, including the Idaho Petroleum Council, the Idaho Association of Building Officials and the Idaho Press Club. All of organizations contacted said they were not solicited by Foster or Haas following the closure of Strategies 360 in Boise, but came to do business with the two on their own accord.
Strategies 360 hired Foster in November 2010 as senior vice president of Idaho operations to lead its new Idaho office. Haas was hired in February 2011 as vice president of Idaho public policy. Both had previously worked for former U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho.
Foster was managing editor of Idaho Business Review in 2006 and 2007.