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Ex-Vero Broadband CEO alleges compensation withheld

BOULDER — Jonathan Adelman, who was removed as Vero Broadband LLC’s CEO in April, has sued the Boulder startup, alleging that he was stiffed on compensation agreed to when he was hired. 

The suit, which Adelman, who is described in the complaint as “a long-time, successful executive with Xcel Energy” prior to joining Vero in November 2021, was filed this week in Boulder County District Court and relates mainly to unprovided and/or undervalued stock options.

“To incentivize Adelman’s acceptance of the CEO role with a comparatively low base annual salary, $165,000, and annual bonus potential, $35,000, Vero offered Adelman lucrative equity grants,” Adelman’s attorneys, who declined to comment on Thursday beyond the text of the complaint, wrote in the lawsuit. “As is common for start-up businesses in the high technology and telecommunications industries, the value of Adelman’s equity grants would far exceed his base salary and bonuses provided that the company did well.”

Adelman claims that upon his termination — which occurred, according to the lawsuit, “without notice,” but Vero “confirmed in the termination meeting that it was not for ‘cause’” — Vero has attempted to shortchange him.

“Adelman is not disclosing the actual valuation for Vero and (affiliated company Vero Broadband Holdings LLC) in this public pleading, but it suffices to say that Vero’s valuation of Adelman’s vested shares following his termination is so substantially less than its actual value, that he would be forfeiting a significant portion of his earned compensation by accepting Vero’s low-ball offer,” the complaint said. 

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Adelman’s final paycheck “showed an unlawful deduction” for more than 150 hours of paid time off worth more than $12,000.

Adelson’s complaint also appears to allege a coverup on behalf of Vero.

“From late March 2023 through Adelman’s termination date on April 12, 2023, he began to receive a number of messages from Carta, DocuSign, and Defendants directly that evidenced defendants’ spoliation of valid employment and compensation records and to falsify others in support of their illegal positions in this litigation,” the complaint said. 

Representatives with Vero, which, according to its website “started by providing connectivity to school districts in rural, underserved communities” and has since expanded its scope of work, did not respond to requests for comment. 

The lawsuit demands repayment of attorneys fees, unspecified compensatory damages, actual damages “equal to the value of the ownership equity rights to which Adelman is entitled (and) contractually agreed compensation.” The plaintiff also demands “statutory penalties of 300% for unpaid wages or compensation for Vero’s willful failure and refusal to pay Adelman’s earned, vested, and determinable wages or compensation.”

The case is Jonathon Adelman versus Vero Broadband LLC et al., case number 2023CV30385, filed May 31, 2023 in Boulder County District Court.

Source: BizWest