A St. Cloud law firm is in turmoil after a round of firings that began with its leader going after employees he believed were supporters of former President Donald Trump, according to a lawsuit filed in Stearns County District Court.
In the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, when Trump supporters violently stormed the building to prevent congressional certification of Joe Biden's election as president, the suit alleges that Wesley Scott sought to fire employees he believed had made pro-Trump posts on social media.
Scott, president of the Kain & Scott law firm, terminated two employees — and then fired three of his law partners after they told him his actions were violating Minnesota law, according to the legal complaint.
The partners whom Scott fired — William Kain, Margaret Henehan and Kelsey Quarberg — are suing for wrongful termination from the St. Cloud-based law firm that specializes in bankruptcy cases.
On its website, Kain & Scott touts itself as "Minnesota's largest and nicest bankruptcy firm." In addition to St. Cloud, the firm has offices in eight other Minnesota cities including Brainerd, Duluth, Mankato and Rochester, and in the Twin Cities metro, Eagan, Maple Grove, Eden Prairie and Roseville.
The three former partners charge that Scott accused them of planning a "coup" against him, according to the suit.
On Tuesday, Scott said he hadn't seen the legal complaint and couldn't comment until he'd had a chance to read it. Quarberg said that she and the other former partners have been advised by their attorney not to comment.
According to the complaint, Scott was disturbed by the Capitol riot and sent an e-mail in April to all the firm's lawyers, saying that the "traitors on Jan. 6" should have been shot.
He then told the firm's operations manager to fire two employees he labeled "racist" because they had pro-Trump and pro-police posts on their social media accounts.
When she refused to fire the employees, Scott fired her, according to the complaint. Scott then fired an additional employee and threatened to fire another.
The three partners confronted Scott, according to court documents, and told him that firing an employee for political beliefs is against state law. Scott then fired them and called St. Cloud police to remove Quarberg, claiming she was trespassing and physically threatening him.
Scott cut off the partners' phones and e-mail accounts and changed the locks on the offices, the complaint says.
He told other law firm employees that the partners had been fired for insubordination, according to the complaint, and disparaged them in an online meeting with the firm's staff.
"We have three employees … who are way over the top violating everything that is dear to us and I won't let it happen," the complaint quotes Scott as saying.
Since firing the three partners, the suit alleges, Scott has tried to prevent them from collecting unemployment and health care benefits.
What's more, the firm's ownership is in limbo. The three fired partners together own 50% of the firm, with Scott owning the other half.
According to the suit, the fired partners negotiated a buyout under the firm's partnership agreement, but Scott reneged after first agreeing to it.
"Scott engaged in conduct at the firm that was inappropriate for an employee, let alone the president of the firm," the complaint says.
The three fired partners are seeking a number of remedies including back pay and benefits, as well as a judicial order to dissolve the firm and pay them for their shares under the buyout that they said had been negotiated.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402