N. Idaho respirator maker sues former president

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SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho company that makes medical respirators has filed a lawsuit against its former president and CEO contending he attempted to weaken the company so he could buy it at a reduced price or use its resources to form a rival company.

Sagle-based Percussionaire Corp. filed the 21-page lawsuit May 26 against Adel Bougatef, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported (http://bit.ly/1sbVWgB ).

The lawsuit also contends that Bougatef worked in secret with a company in Ireland to design a new range of ventilators using Percussionaire's resources.

"The purpose of the secretive product development was in furtherance of Dr. Bougatef's own business plan to acquire Percussionaire for a low price and to utilize the new product to the advantage of a new company, or, alternatively, to start a new competing company in Texas after crippling Percussionaire," the company's attorney, C. Matthew Andersen, said in the suit.

Bougatef denies the allegations and said he was fired after reporting to the board of directors accounting errors and irregularities that occurred before Bougatef was hired. He was ultimately allowed to resign after arguing problems arose due to language barriers, and he stayed on during a transitional period.

His attorney, Hank Marino of Chicago, told the newspaper he's preparing an eight-count counterclaim.

"There is a different side to the story," Marino said. "They have their side and we have ours."

Bougatef came to northern Idaho several years ago from Belgium to run the company after company founder and inventor Forrest Bird retired and selected Bougatef to take over. Bird, 93, is known for creating the first low-cost, mass-produced medical respirators, including the "Babybird" in 1970 that helped reduce infant mortality.

In court documents, Bird is described as a mentor to Bougatef in the field of intrapulmonary percussive ventilation. Bougatef was the chief of the neonatal unit in Brussels, Belgium, when Bird selected him in January 2012 to run Percussionaire's day-to-day operations.

Marleen De Heyn, Bougatef's wife, is also named as a defendant in the suit. The lawsuit said that she was an independent commissioned coordinator for sales of Percussionaire products to distributors in Europe.


Information from: Bonner County (Idaho) Daily Bee, http://www.bonnercountydailybee.com

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