Carrie Rengers

Key Construction sues former VP

Key Construction has filed a lawsuit in Sedgwick County District Court seeking more than $156,801 plus interest from former employee Pat Ayars .

The dispute relates to shares Ayars owns in four Key companies.

"I was surprised that they elected to sue," says Ayars, a former executive vice president.

"One of their founding principles is not to sue or be sued, and I thought we were working toward a reasonable conclusion."

Key chief financial officer John Walker says the company had to file a lawsuit "just to move everything off dead center because he's been unresponsive."

Over the more than 11 years that Ayars was the public face at Key, he acquired shares in the company as well as parent company Key Construction Cos. ; Summit Holdings , a real estate investment LLC; and Key Con-Air , an LLC that owns an airplane.

According to the suit, Ayars signed an agreement that he would sell back his shares to the company at an agreed-upon price if his employment was terminated for any reason.

Ayars lost his job at Key in January and has since formed Oxford Development Holdings to build and acquire senior care centers.

The suit says Ayars signed a promissory note to pay for the stock in the companies.

"Ayars has failed or refused to repay the unpaid balance of the note in the principal amount of $391,459.61 and also owes interest on that obligation at the rate of 7 percent per annum," the suit says.

Also, the suit says Ayars received loans from advances on profit-sharing of $136,000 and at one point received an overpayment in his profit-sharing of $60,694.15.

"After giving Ayars credit for the value of his shares in Key Construction, Inc., and then offsetting that amount against the amounts Ayars owes Key, Ayars owes Key the net principal amount of $156,801.13."

Ayars and his attorney, Lincoln, Neb.-based Keith Prettyman , say Key is creating the holdup in payment.

"We've been waiting for Key because they have filed extensions for financial reports for certain properties, and we were waiting for those to be finalized before we had a chance ... to review their value," Ayars says.

Also, he says, Key wants him to sign a nondisclosure form.

"In reviewing the form that was provided to us, my review was that it was overly broad," Prettyman says. "It contained things other than nondisclosure."

Walker and Key's attorney, Terry Malone of Martin Pringle , are surprised to hear that.

"I will say that you've had more contact with his attorney in the last hour than we have had in the last seven months," Walker says.

"We are prepared to and have offered to share any and all information as long as he will in turn enter into a nondisclosure agreement."

Ayars says the first he heard of the suit was when he was called for comment on it Tuesday.

"I just thought we could resolve this amicably, but if it comes to court, it comes to court," he says.

"Life should be more fun."

ABCO to close

After 22 years in business, ABCO Restaurant Equipment at 311 N. Washington is closing.

"Have you looked at the last five quarters?" president Donna Calbeck says. "Business has been down quite a bit."

She sells mostly used restaurant equipment.

In the past when there have been layoffs and strikes and tough economic times, Calbeck says her business would increase as people decided to go into business for themselves.

"It has not happened in the last year," she says.

Calbeck plans to close after business Thursday, but she says, "I might hang around till Friday."

Eventually, she'll probably have an auction of the contents, but Calbeck isn't trying to sell the business.

Nor does she want to hang onto it in the hopes that the economy will get better. She doesn't want to risk getting in a financial hole.

Calbeck says she wants to get out "while there's a semblance of some way to get out."

You don't say

"Let's just say when these products come out next Monday, they're guaranteed to make any self-respecting Shocker want to swallow their pride."

WSU mascot WuShock in a teasing Facebook message about a new line of edible products related to the university (our guess is that alum Beth Tully of Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates is creating chocolates in Wu's likeness)

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