Speaker says Minnetonka pupil's parents ruined career

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 13, 2012 - 9:33 PM

Boston-based drug educator sued a Minnetonka couple, saying they destroyed his business after he counseled their daughter in hotel room.

A Boston-based drug educator is suing the parents of a former Blake School student, claiming a mischaracterization of their relationship cost him his career, home and sobriety.

In a lawsuit filed last week in Henn-epin County District Court, Jeffery Wolfsberg, 46, claims that William and Roberta Wheeler of Minnetonka conspired to ruin his business and reputation, which caused the recovering addict to relapse, and also destroyed his marriage. The lawsuit accuses the Wheelers of defamation, invasion of privacy, emotional distress and interference with a business contract. It seeks at least $50,000 in damages.

Wolfsberg ran seminars and spoke to teenagers nationwide for 16 years about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Blake severed ties with him when they learned of his relationship with their student; other schools around the country did the same.

The suit stems from Wolfsberg's relationship with the Wheelers' daughter, who he met at a seminar he gave at Blake in 2010 when she was 17. After the two were found to have exchanged thousands of text messages between November 2010 and March 2011, Blake officials canceled future speaking engagements.

Wolfsberg and the student met at a Minneapolis hotel room last September, prompting Blake officials to send a letter to students and parents describing the incident. The school added that Wolfsberg had violated the school's standards and his own ethical code, even if nothing sexual happened.

In his suit, Wolfsberg maintains that his relationship with the student was not inappropriate and that he was a voice of support when she was troubled. The student, then 18, met Wolfsberg at his hotel room for more than an hour. At her parents' request, Minneapolis police escorted her out, but no charges were filed. Blake filed for a restraining order against Wolfsberg, which a judge dismissed, saying there was no evidence he harassed the school or contacted other students.

Wolfsberg has long maintained that nothing sexual happened between him and the girl, and that she came to the hotel to talk to him when she was upset about a personal matter. The suit includes a letter from the student insisting the same, and that Wolfsberg made a mistake by meeting her at the hotel because he "put my needs and safety above his own. And for that, he paid an enormous price."

Wolfsberg maintains in his suit that the Wheelers approved of his communication with their daughter until they sought advice about who she was dating. The Wheelers did not like his response, he claims, and began a campaign that eventually destroyed his career. Wolfsberg lost nearly all of his clients, entered drug rehabilitation and had a nervous breakdown. The suit says he is now on food stamps and collects unemployment.

Wolfsberg's attorney, John Neve, said he and Wolfsberg tried to settle with the Wheelers before the lawsuit was filed. "We're disappointed to have to serve and file the complaint," he said.

The Wheelers' attorney, John Boyle, said he will file an answer to the suit next week, and that it will "materially dispute the substance of Mr. Wolfsberg's claims."

"We will set the record straight on important issues, such as the nature and scope of Mr. Wolfsberg's relationship with an impressionable high school student," he said.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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