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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A stalemate in settlement negotiations has prompted a man who claims U.S. Rep Chris Cannon, R-Utah, owes him more than $88,000 in back wages is taking his beef to federal court.
Chet Poulton claims C4 Communications, Inc., an Internet company Cannon invested in, never paid him for work he did as a computer technician.
Filed in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court on Friday, the lawsuit alleges unpaid wages, racketeering and common-law fraud and has requests $1 million in punitive damages in addition to alleged back pay.
In court documents, Poulton questions Cannon's business finances and alleges Cannon "illegally divert(ed) campaign contributions and use(d) them to run his own private businesses."
A 2002 lawsuit filed in Utah's state courts was dismissed. And a settlement agreement that would have paid Poulton and another disgruntled former employee $95,000 fell apart in February.
Cannon's attorney, Wm. Kelly Nash said the issues raised by Poulton appear to be separate from those in the state suit, but are also baseless.
"This campaign has been audited in the past and has been given a clean bill of health," he said. "We have confidence in Mr. Cannon's experienced financial management staff and believe these disparaging statements will go nowhere . . . This matter is clearly politically motivated and is an example of improperly using the courts as a forum for an obvious political attack."
Poulton's attorney is Danny Quintana, a Democrat and one-time Cannon challenger for the 3rd District congressional seat.
Quintana says Poulton has documented evidence of his claims, including computer data.
"It's really bad to stiff your computer tech," Quintana said.
Quintana said he plans to ask the court to appoint a federal receiver to audit the congressional campaigns of all political parties.
He believes "numerous congressional candidates from all political parties are using campaign contributions for purposes other than running for Congress."
Included in the list of the lawsuit's defendants are the Republican Party's National Committee and Cannon's campaign treasurer, Curt Bramble, who is also a state senator from Provo.
Four other C4 employees have sued Cannon. Mark Stoddard settled a $40,000 lawsuit for unpaid wages in 2002. Political consultant Chuck Muth has also alleged nonpayment, which Cannon denies. David Scholes joined his lawsuit with Poulton's in state court, but is not named in the new lawsuit.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)