Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2018

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Huntridge director files defamation lawsuit against business partners

The Huntridge Performing Arts Theatre's executive director, accused by three former partners of misappropriating state funds meant for the Las Vegas theatre's restoration, sued them alleging defamation and is seeking an order to end their partnership in a video production company.

In a Clark County District Court lawsuit, Richard Lenz sued Earl Leavitt, Douglas Stringham, Thomas Cole and R.E.D. Communications doing business as Impulse Studios.

The suit alleges they conspired to slander Lenz in a bid to oust him from the Huntridge, and violated a business agreement by allegedly stealing Impulse Studio's assets and failing to provide financial statements.

Lenz said Impulse Studios, which was on the second floor of the Huntridge, was allegedly illegally relocated by the defendants on Jan. 4 and renamed "dax works" after he told the defendants of his intention to end the deal because they failed to meet the partnership's requirements.

Lenz, who said he is owed $19,000 of a $25,300 investment he made in Impulse Studios and seeks to recover the allegedly stolen company property, said the defendants were trying to "allay their financial responsibilities" by making what he called "patently false" allegations that he had misappropriated state grants for the Huntridge and invested those funds in Impulse Studios.

Leavitt said he had made the accusations about Lenz to several parties including Kathy Bartlett, a commissioner on the Commission of Cultural Affairs for the state of Nevada, and the Las Vegas Metro police fraud division.

Detective Peter Dustin of the Metro fraud division said no wrongdoing has been proven.

"The case is closed until the information we requested to prove an actual embezzlement occurred has been provided by Leavitt. And he hasn't provided that information yet," Dustin said.

But Leavitt continues to allege that Lenz received state funds and "laundered the money through Uriah Enterprises," a contractor Lenz hired to rebuild the roof and make other improvements to the Huntridge.

Lenz denied Leavitt's charge, saying he used part of a $100,000 grant from the Commission of Cultural Affairs in June 1997 to pay Uriah for work done at the Huntridge.

He said Uriah used the funds to buy equipment from Lenz's company, TLG/The Lenz Group Inc., to outfit the fly-loft -- a structure that holds theatre backdrops and sets -- which Lenz claims is part of a legitimate arrangement TLG had with Friends of the Huntridge Inc., a non-profit group that operates the theatre.

"Friends of the Huntridge has a history of buying equipment from TLG since 1993 because they get a better price there," Lenz said.

Lenz and Leavitt, both Mormons, also claim each has complained to Mormon Church leaders about each other.

The lawsuit alleged Leavitt and Stringham also made similar defamatory statements to two members of the Friends of the Huntridge board, and allegedly asked them to resign and also sought to get their proxy vote to take control of the Huntridge.

Lenz claimed Leavitt told Eric Jordan, the Huntridge board's president, that he "wanted to ruin Lenz and take control of the Huntridge." Lenz alleged Leavitt began to represent himself as a director on the board even though records of a December board meeting allegedly showed he wasn't voted in as a board member.

But Leavitt disputed Lenz's claims. "He's misrepresenting the facts. There were three board members present at the December meeting and each signed a document saying I was a member. As of April 17, Lenz and Jordan illegally re-formed the board and changed the minutes of the meeting to show I wasn't elected."

"I didn't say 'I wanted to ruin Lenz' in those words," Leavitt said. "I said I would use all the legal means in my power to protect myself and my standing as a board member."