Plastic foam producer Sentinel Products Corp. plans to seek a court injunction against a former employee who it alleges is spreading defamatory information about the Hyannis, Mass., company's officers. Sentinel's push into foamed metallocene resins last year was one source of friction between Sentinel and John M. Bonforte Sr.
Bonforte recently issued a news release alleging several Sen-tinel executives conspired to de-stroy his firm, Monmouth Rubber & Plastics Corp. He made this and other allegations in a lawsuit he launched on Dec. 18 in U.S. Dis-trict Court in Trenton, N.J. About a month earlier, Sentinel sued Monmouth in U.S. District Court in Boston for allegedly stealing trade secrets and customers.
Bonforte was Sentinel's vice president of manufacturing from September 1992 to July 1995. Prior, during and after his work with Sentinel, he owned Mon-mouth, which makes closed-cell foamed rubber and plastic products in Long Branch, N.J. Sentinel was a key Monmouth customer.
Sentinel lawyer John Kuzine-vich said Sentinel did not try to shut down Monmouth with the lawsuit it launched in November.
``We sued to prevent him from using our formulations, machine
configurations, trade secrets and customer lists,'' Kuzinevich said in a telephone interview from law firm Kuzinevich & Miller's Boston office.
Bonforte said in a telephone interview that he has broad experience in foamed plastics and that he used that experience to help solve Sentinel production problems.
Bonforte's lawsuit individually names several Sentinel executives. They are chief operating officer Scott Smith, vice president of sales and marketing Jack Nagy, chief financial officer Charles Wyman and Chairman John Bambara. It claims they conspired to destroy Monmouth's ability to operate, its reputation with the trade, its financial ability and Bonforte's personal reputation.
Kuzinevich denied all the charges and said Bonforte's news release is ``a personal attack.'' Sentinel could launch an injunction as soon as March 29, he said in a March 28 interview.
Bonforte said Monmouth was making foamed plastic and rubber products for Sentinel while he was employed with Sentinel. Some of the production used machinery that Bonforte sold to Sentinel's parent company, P.I. Inc. of Hyannis in 1992. Mon-mouth ran the P.I. equipment at Monmouth's Long Branch plant.
Sentinel told him last summer that it wanted to concentrate on foamed plastics based on metallocene resins and it did not want Monmouth's production any more.
Bonforte claimed Sentinel also told him not to use P.I.'s equipment on contracts Monmouth felt obliged to fulfill.
Bonforte said he helped Sentinel get into metallocene resin processing and when it decided to focus on such work its executives decided to ``shut me out'' and tried to convince him to close Monmouth.
Kuzinevich said Sentinel had no obligation to continue doing business with Monmouth or to rely on Monmouth's foamed rubber production capability.
``Sentinel made the decision to invest in research, development and marketing in metallocene resins and not to concentrate on rubber,'' Kuzinevich said. ``Bonforte didn't like that.''
Bonforte further alleges in his lawsuit that P.I. breached a promissory note for high-shear mixing equipment he sold to P.I. in 1992 for about $1.5 million. P.I. transferred assets to Sentinel that put P.I. in a negative net worth position by March 1995, thus putting P.I. in default of the note, according to Bonforte. He said P.I. and/or Sentinel owe him about $1.2 million on the note.
Kuzinevich said P.I.'s payments on the note have been timely and current. It is trying to rescind the equipment purchase and recover its payments.
Sentinel's lawsuit includes allegations that Bonforte underestimated operating costs of P.I.'s machinery in the Monmouth plant. The true costs were a financial drag on Sentinel, Kuzinevich claimed.
Bonforte said he plans to auction the equipment and will try to recover from P.I. or Sentinel the amount outstanding on the note less funds received from the equipment sale.