Noth­stein’s velo­drome ten­ure rocky, ex-chair­man claims

Al­le­ga­tions come in re­sponse to in­va­sion of pri­vacy law­suit. Noth­stein’s lawyer calls them ‘gross mis­cal­cu­la­tions.’

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Hall

Com­plaints of “toxic mas­culin­ity,” “bizarre be­hav­ior” and an “in­ap­pro­pri­ate phys­i­cal re­la­tion­ship” with a coach marked Marty Noth­stein’s ten­ure as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Val­ley Pre­ferred Cy­cling Cen­ter, the velo­drome’s former chair­man al­leges in a court fil­ing.

Velo­drome board mem­ber An­drew Ral­ston’s fil­ing this week re­sponds to a law­suit Olympic gold medal cy­clist Noth­stein filed last year in which Noth­stein al­leges the rev­e­la­tion of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions against him was an in­va­sion of his pri­vacy.

Noth­stein also is su­ing the

non­profit Velo­drome Fund Inc., which op­er­ates the Up­per Ma­cungie Town­ship cy­cling cen­ter, and The Morn­ing Call, which in 2018 was first to re­port that Noth­stein was placed on un­paid leave af­ter the velo­drome board was no­ti­fied about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Noth­stein an­nounced a week af­ter the story was pub­lished that SafeS­port had cleared him of wrong­do­ing.

The Morn­ing Call has filed pre­lim­i­nary ob­jec­tions to Noth­stein’s claims, ar­gu­ing in part that be­cause he is a pub­lic fig­ure and the al­le­ga­tions were mat­ters of le­git­i­mate pub­lic in­ter­est he can­not make out a case of in­va­sion of pri­vacy. The Velo­drome Fund’s dead­line to file a re­sponse is next week.

Noth­stein was a can­di­date for the Le­high Val­ley’s con­gres­sional seat at that time. To­day he chairs the Le­high County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers, and is seek­ing re­elec­tion Nov. 5.

Li­tany of com­plaints

Ral­ston’s re­sponse de­tails work­place com­plaints by four former velo­drome em­ploy­ees and al­leges an in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ship be­tween Noth­stein and a cy­cling coach. It de­scribes as “ag­gres­sive” and “hos­tile” Noth­stein’s re­ac­tion when board mem­bers re­fused to hire Noth­stein’s close friend and long­time coach over con­cerns of mis­con­duct. And it al­leges af­ter Noth­stein was sus­pended from his job, Ral­ston dis­cov­ered Noth­stein had been us­ing his velo­drome of­fice for cam­paign work.

“Noth­stein’s use of velo­drome fa­cil­i­ties for cam­paign work could have placed the velo­drome’s tax-ex­empt sta­tus at risk,” Ral­ston’s re­sponse says.

Noth­stein’s at­tor­ney David Heim said Fri­day that Ral­ston’s al­le­ga­tions are in­flam­ma­tory and un­true and will be de­feated in court. He de­clined to com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions di­rectly.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate that he has stooped to this level and it’s not true,” Heim said. “They are re­ally gross mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tions.”

The fil­ing de­nies the claim that Ral­ston dis­closed to Morn­ing Call re­porters in­for­ma­tion about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Noth­stein by the U.S. Cen­ter for SafeS­port, and states that Ral­ston does not know who leaked an in­ter­nal email in­form­ing other board mem­bers of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

It also chal­lenges an al­le­ga­tion in Noth­stein’s law­suit that Ral­ston had fun­neled tens of thou­sands of dol­lars worth of velo­drome le­gal work to his law firm, White and Wil­liams, not­ing that un­til ha­rass­ment com­plaints emerged against Noth­stein, the amount of work the firm did was min­i­mal. When the firm was en­gaged to de­fend the velo­drome in a com­plaint against Noth­stein, Ral­ston did not ex­er­cise his right to ap­ply to the firm for a finder’s fee, the fil­ing says.

“Mr. Noth­stein has ma­li­ciously per­pet­u­ated this false nar­ra­tive to sup­port his base­less al­le­ga­tions of pre­text for the ac­tions of the [velo­drome] board of di­rec­tors,” Ral­ston’s re­sponse says.

The Morn­ing Call re­ported Aug. 17, 2018, that Noth­stein was placed on leave from his job in Fe­bru­ary 2018 af­ter velo­drome board mem­bers be­came aware of the SafeS­port in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The un­spec­i­fied mis­con­duct claim re­ferred to an al­leged in­ci­dent from about 2000, when Noth­stein won an Olympic gold medal, ac­cord­ing to a velo­drome board email re­viewed by re­porters.

A week later Noth­stein an­nounced at a news con­fer­ence that SafeS­port had cleared him of wrong­do­ing. “The Cen­ter [for SafeS­port] has com­pleted its in­quiry and has de­ter­mined that, based on the in­for­ma­tion and ev­i­dence cur­rently avail­able, the Cen­ter is not pro­ceed­ing with any fur­ther pro­ceed­ings at this time and the mat­ter is now closed,” says a SafeS­port email Noth­stein’s cam­paign made pub­lic Aug. 24, 2018

Le­gal set­tle­ments needed

Ral­ston’s fil­ing says the velo­drome set­tled at least two com­plaints against Noth­stein. It says in ad­di­tion to ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion com­plaints, the board also re­ceived com­plaints from com­mu­nity mem­bers that Noth­stein was ro­man­ti­cally in­volved with a per­son he had hired to be a coach at the velo­drome.

When con­fronted with the com­plaints, Noth­stein de­nied any sex­ual con­tact with the per­son but ad­mit­ted he had made him­self vul­ner­a­ble to crit­i­cism by spend­ing time alone in his of­fice, go­ing for long bi­cy­cle rides and stay­ing in a Las Ve­gas ho­tel room with the coach, the fil­ing says.

Ac­cord­ing to Ral­ston’s fil­ing, a fe­male velo­drome mar­ket­ing man­ager brought a com­plaint against the velo­drome al­leg­ing Noth­stein “fos­tered a cul­ture of toxic mas­culin­ity ... where only men were re­spected.” An­other fe­male em­ployee, the velo­drome’s op­er­a­tions man­ager, quit her job un­ex­pect­edly, telling the board Noth­stein cre­ated a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment by be­hav­ing bizarrely.

“Amongst other com­plaints, Mr. Noth­stein had hys­ter­i­cally screamed at her for an ex­tended pe­riod of time while driv­ing with her in his ve­hi­cle at an ex­ces­sively high rate of speed. She felt en­dan­gered by this be­hav­ior,” the fil­ing says.

A third fe­male em­ployee quit sud­denly, telling board mem­bers that, as a fe­male, it was im­pos­si­ble to work for Noth­stein, the fil­ing says.

It also refers to a dis­crim­i­na­tion claim by a former em­ployee, iden­ti­fied in the fil­ing as “Male Em­ployee 1.” The Morn­ing Call pre­vi­ously re­ported on the 2017 law­suit filed by Christo­pher Gill, a cy­cling cham­pion from Trinidad who al­leged in it that Noth­stein cre­ated a “nox­ious work en­vi­ron­ment.”

In his law­suit, Gill claims Noth­stein told him “you Trinida­di­ans are lazy and con­men,” and that to make Trinida­di­ans good em­ploy­ees, “you have to beat it out of them.” The law­suit, which the velo­drome set­tled in July 2018, also al­leged Noth­stein sub­se­quently cut Gill’s salary by 40 per­cent and re­quired him to work longer hours.

Close friend and long­time coach

Ral­ston’s fil­ing de­scribes how he learned of the SafeS­port in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and states that it was fo­cused on sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions against both Noth­stein and his long­time coach and close friend Gil­bert “Gibby” Hat­ton.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing no­tice from USA Cy­cling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion on Feb. 9, 2018, Ral­ston for­warded the mes­sage to the velo­drome board of di­rec­tors, who sched­uled an emer­gency meet­ing. The fil­ing notes that news of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Noth­stein and Hat­ton came in the wake of sex­ual abuse scan­dals in­volv­ing the U.S. Olympic sanc­tion­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions for gym­nas­tics and swim­ming.

Be­fore an emer­gency board meet­ing Feb. 12, 2018, Ral­ston spoke with Shane Gar­man, an at­tor­ney for USA Cy­cling. Gar­man told Ral­ston the or­ga­ni­za­tion no­ti­fied the velo­drome of the al­le­ga­tions against Noth­stein so it could take “ap­pro­pri­ate steps” to ad­dress what USA Cy­cling con­sid­ered “very se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions,” ac­cord­ing to Ral­ston’s fil­ing.

Gar­man al­legedly also told Ral­ston that USA Cy­cling had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion that Hat­ton con­tin­ued to be a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the velo­drome and that Noth­stein was giv­ing him jobs, the fil­ing says.

Hat­ton could not be reached by tele­phone or email Fri­day. A spokesper­son for USA Cy­cling did not re­spond to an in­quiry about the al­leged in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Hat­ton.

The fil­ing de­scribes Noth­stein ap­proach­ing the board in 2015 and ask­ing to hire Hat­ton as the velo­drome’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity pro­grams.

Sev­eral mem­bers ex­pressed con­cern to Ral­ston about Hat­ton’s “char­ac­ter for sex­ual mis­con­duct,” the fil­ing says with­out ex­plain­ing what that means. The board de­cided against hir­ing Hat­ton, the fil­ing says, and in­formed Noth­stein of its de­ci­sion.

“At that point, Mr. Noth­stein rose from his chair and be­gan mov­ing to­wards Mr. Ral­ston in an ag­gres­sive, hos­tile man­ner. Other mem­bers of the board in­ter­vened, step­ping be­tween Mr. Noth­stein and Mr. Ral­ston,” the fil­ing says.

Al­leged con­flicts of in­ter­est

Ral­ston’s re­sponse to the law­suit also de­scribes sit­u­a­tions in which Noth­stein al­legedly put his in­ter­ests ahead of the velo­drome’s.

Af­ter the board placed Noth­stein on un­paid leave in Fe­bru­ary 2018, mem­bers asked Ral­ston to go to the velo­drome and lo­cate a signed copy of Noth­stein’s con­tract. In Noth­stein’s of­fice, Ral­ston found “a great deal” of con­gres­sional cam­paign ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing sta­tion­ary, en­velopes and post­cards, the fil­ing says.

Ral­ston claims Noth­stein had been ex­plic­itly told that he could not use velo­drome prop­erty for his cam­paign. It notes that non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions are barred from en­gag­ing in po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns and “Noth­stein’s use of the velo­drome for cam­paign work could have put its tax­ex­empt sta­tus in jeop­ardy.”

Noth­stein al­legedly sought to se­cure his job by mak­ing con­tracts con­tin­gent on his em­ploy­ment, Ral­ston’s fil­ing says.

In 2014, the Velo­drome Fund ex­tended its lease with Le­high County, which owns the velo­drome prop­erty, for 20 years. Noth­stein, who was not yet a county com­mis­sioner, al­legedly pro­posed a pro­vi­sion that the lease with the county would last only as long as he was ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the velo­drome.

“The VFI board of di­rec­tors re­fused to in­clude Noth­stein’s bizarre, self-serv­ing pro­posal into the lease with the county,” Ral­ston’s fil­ing says.

The fol­low­ing year, when the Velo­drome Fund re­newed a nam­ing rights con­tract with Val­ley Pre­ferred physi­cians group, Val­ley Pre­ferred re­quired a term to re­main in the con­tract that called for re­duced pay­ments if Noth­stein was no longer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, ac­cord­ing to Ral­ston’s fil­ing.

Noth­stein also pres­sured the board to hire his per­sonal friend as the velo­drome’s lawyer to de­fend him in the dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit filed by Gill, the Trinida­dian cy­cling coach, Ral­ston’s fil­ing says.

Af­ter Gill com­plained about dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­rass­ment, the fil­ing says, the velo­drome board hired Nancy Con­rad, an em­ploy­ment lawyer at Ral­ston’s firm White and Wil­liams.

Noth­stein re­quested that the Velo­drome Fund in­stead re­tain his friend, at­tor­ney R. Eric Hall, as the velo­drome’s lawyer in the case. The fil­ing, which de­scribes the re­quest as “self-serv­ing,” says Hall had no ex­pe­ri­ence in the area of em­ploy­ment law.

“Mr. Ral­ston, and ev­ery other mem­ber of the board of di­rec­tors, be­lieved that At­tor­ney Hall may put Mr. Noth­stein’s in­ter­ests and de­sires above that of the velo­drome,” the fil­ing says.

Hall, who died in De­cem­ber, orig­i­nally filed the law­suit against Ral­ston, the Velo­drome Fund and The Morn­ing Call.


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