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July 24, 2001
Fired Omaha Exec Awarded $2.7M
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Omaha executive who was fired four years ago has been awarded more than $2.7 million in compensation and damages by a federal court.

Gerald Brown had been president of Coleman Powermate, a maker of air compressors and a subsidiary of the Coleman company, which makes camping equipment.

Brown charged that Coleman CEO Jerry Levin defamed him in 1997 by telling Coleman Powermate employees that Brown had been fired, in part, for misuse of company assets, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

An arbitration board, called on to settle the dispute between the company and Brown, ruled that Coleman wrongfully fired and slandered the executive, who had been with Coleman for 23 years. The board ordered Coleman to pay Brown $3.6 million in compensation and damages, and Coleman then paid Brown nearly $1 million of that total for lost compensation and certain benefits.

But the company also appealed to a federal court in Wichita, challenging $2.3 million awarded Brown for lost stock option profits and another $350,000 for his claim that he had been defamed.

In that case, U.S. Judge Monti Belot ruled that Brown wasn't entitled to the $2.3 million. The judge's ruling was overturned by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, a decision that the Coleman company appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court on Feb. 26 refused to hear the case.

So on May 22, Judge Belot directed that the payments be made to Brown.

Lazar Raynal of Chicago, Brown's attorney, called the action "a complete vindication and total victory" for his client, who declined to comment.

Brown is now president and chairman of American HealthNet Co., of Omaha, which provides computer software for community hospitals across the country.

Belot ordered Seaboard Surety Co. and St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co. to pay $361,987 and $2.4 million with interest, respectively, to Brown.

The two insurance companies provided bonds that covered the damage judgment against the Coleman Co., Wichita-based parent of Coleman Powermate during the appeal process.

To view the Omaha World-Herald story, click here.
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