Altman Stage Lighting Co. is suing a former executive for $5 million for allegedly stealing the prototype of a marijuana grow light.
Altman filed a complaint March 26 in federal court in White Plains against former general manager Julie Smith, alleging theft of trade secrets.
Smith, the complaint states, told management that the grow light “had not been sufficiently developed to be marketed, while secretly arranging for that product to be delivered to her home with the apparent intent of using it for her own benefit.”
Altman Lighting, founded in 1953, illuminates not only theater, television and film stages, it makes lighting for churches, concert halls and schools.
The Yonkers company recently sold its 6.2 acre property on Alexander Street to Rose Associates, for $23.2 million, for a proposed apartment building, and it has announced that it will relocate to Colorado this June.
In late 2015, the lighting company began developing a grow light for cannabis and other agricultural products.
In 2016, Smith was hired as the general manager. She continued to live in Dallas and traveled regularly to New York.
CEO Robert Altman trusted her, the complaint states, granted her significant authority and considered her as a potential candidate to succeed him.
By 2017, according to the complaint, Russell Altman, the business development manager, began questioning Smith about progress on the grow light. She allegedly responded that the project was behind schedule for lack of funding or inadequate resources.
When she was questioned a few months later, she allegedly blamed head engineer Jeffrey Maddox for “lying to her about his progress.”
Maddox was written up for failure to develop the grow light, and three months later, in November 2017, he left the company “due to the threat of being fired.”
Smith left the company this past July.
Then another engineer asked Maddox if he was interested in returning to Altman.
Maddox revealed that he had actually developed the prototype.
As far back as December 2016, according to the complaint, Smith had sent Maddox an email asking to meet with him after hours and off site.
There was “some funding,” the email purportedly stated, “and this project will be separate from Altman Stage Lighting.”
Smith allegedly instructed Maddox and other engineers not to discuss the project with anyone, in or outside of the company.
In June 2017 – before Smith allegedly blamed Maddox for lack of progress – she told him that she would accept delivery of the grow light meters and prototype. He delivered the equipment to her home, according to the complaint, on June 19, 2017.
Altman is accusing Smith of misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of duty, fraud and usurpation of corporate opportunity. The company is demanding $5 million for lost profits and wasted resources, and for $678,616 she was paid during her tenure.
Efforts to find contact information for Smith, to get her side of the story, failed.
Altman is represented by White Plains attorneys Lee A. Pollock and Dawn Portney.