Lehigh Valley

Marty Nothstein alleges invasion of privacy in connection to misconduct investigation

Former Olympian sues Morning Call, Velodrome

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The former executive director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center accuses a board member of funneling thousands in legal work from the Lehigh County-based nonprofit to his law firm.

It’s a claim that the former board president and current board member calls “completely false” and “absolutely and entirely made up.”

Marty Nothstein, a former Olympic cyclist turned Congressional candidate, on Monday filed suit against the parent organization that runs the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, Andrew Ralston Jr. and The Morning Call. Nothstein is suing on eight counts, including invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy, breach of contract and unlawful termination. Not each of the parties is named in each count.

The lawsuit filed in Lehigh County Court centers mostly around a sexual misconduct investigation and newspaper stories after an anonymous tipster in October accused Nothstein of an incident in 2000. SafeSport closed the investigation in August, according to the lawsuit. But the suit also alleges misconduct against the board's former president, accuses the organization of refusing to return his personal belongings and alleges he was fired without cause or an investigation.

In his lawsuit, Nothstein indicates that an anonymous tipster contacted USA Cycling less than two weeks after he declared his candidacy for the 7th Congressional District. He learned on Feb. 9 that SafeSport was conducting an investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations that Nothstein vehemently denied.

The cycling center’s board of directors three days later placed him on indefinite, unpaid leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The lawsuit alleges Ralston’s decision to place the executive director on leave constituted a constructive discharge and that he acted without the support of the full board.

The suit further alleges that the organization’s bylaws required Ralston to convene a special board meeting, which he failed to do. Nothstein also alleges that the unpaid leave of absence constituted a breach of his employment contract and that the makeup of the board violated Velodrome Fund Inc.’s bylaws. He claims the board was too big and didn’t include a Lehigh County representative.

As part of his lawsuit, Nothstein accuses Ralston of lining his own pockets by directing legal work for the cycling center to the Philadelphia-based law firm for which he worked. Ralston works in the firm’s Center Valley office.

The suit alleges Ralston funneled “tens of thousands of dollars of legal work” to his firm and that he received a percentage of all billings to the firm, concerns Nothstein claimed he routinely raise with the board. The lawsuit looks to connect that allegation to the accusations Ralston violated Nothstein’s employment contract. The lawsuit alleges Ralston stood to benefit personally from any legal work the firm did in defending Nothstein’s leave of absence.

Ralston declined to comment, instead directing a reporter to a comment on his Facebook page. He wrote that he wasn’t paid anything for legal work done on behalf of the Velodrome Fund Inc. Ralston further stated he is a salaried employee and “voluntarily did the right thing by refusing" any payment related to work on behalf of the cycling center.

“The claim that I am unethical is outrageously false,” Ralston wrote.

The Morning Call published a story on Aug. 17, reporting on Nothstein’s unpaid leave. He alleges the newspaper intentionally omitted from the article that the woman connected to the allegations that lead to the SafeSport investigation denied all allegations.

The lawsuit claims that Nothstein offered the newspaper an affidavit in which the woman who was the subject of the alleged sexual misconduct denied under oath the anonymous accusations. He alleges that The Morning Call refused to review the affidavit. The lawsuit does indicate that the newspaper reported in a follow-up article that Nothstein’s campaign indicated it had signed affidavits.

Nothstein alleges a “gross violation of journalistic standards” on the newspaper’s behalf for reportedly not reviewing the woman’s affidavit.

The lawsuit alleges the article was published solely to cast Nothstein in a "false light, to suggest the anonymous accusations made to SafeSport were true, and to wrongfully influence the outcome of the election in the 7th Congressional District."

The lawsuit further alleges that Ralston and other unnamed board members served as a source for The Morning Call by routinely leaking information on the SafeSport investigation.

Ralston denies leaking any information to the newspaper and indicates that any action taken regarding Nothstein’s employment was taken by the board, not him.

Neither a The Morning Call, nor a Valley Preferred Cycling Center representative responded to an email request for comment as of Tuesday evening.

Nothstein is suing Ralston, Velodrome Fund Inc. and The Morning Call for invasion of privacy and civil conspiracy. The suit accuses the Velodrome and Andrew Ralston of unlawful termination and accuses the organization of breach of contract.

Nothstein is seeking $50,000 or more for each of the eight counts.

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