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The government relations subsidiary of Duane Morris has sued one of its founding directors, former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, alleging in the lawsuit that without proper notice of his resignation Singel attempted to take the company’s files, staff and clients to his own firm. The plaintiff, Public Affairs Management (PAM), claimed in the lawsuit that Singel, who had been managing director of the Harrisburg, Pa., office of PAM since its inception in 2000, breached several parts of his employment agreement. Other claims against Singel included copyright infringement, trade libel, breach of fiduciary duty and civil conspiracy. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Also named as defendants in the suit are Peg Callahan Moyer and Angie Mellott-Armbrust — two PAM employees who left with Singel — and Singel’s new lobbying firm, The Winter Group. Duane Morris partner Thomas Servodidio filed the suit on behalf of PAM while Kirkpatrick & Lockhart partner Carleton Strouss is representing Singel. The suit alleges that Singel, a Democrat who served as lieutenant governor from 1987 to 1995 under Gov. Robert P. Casey Sr., resigned during a Jan. 12 meeting with Duane Morris officials in Philadelphia without providing the 30-days’ notice required in his employment agreement. The suit alleged that Singel claimed he could make more money on his own, claimed he was underpaid and that he wanted to spend time preparing for another bid for elected office in 2006. Two days later, Moyer and Mellott-Armbrust announced they would be joining Singel at The Winter Group. But the suit claims that prior to his resignation, Singel had embarked upon a scheme to take the clients, employees and property of PAM. The suit alleges Singel launched a Web site for The Winter Group on Jan. 7, tried to lure PAM employees to his new enterprise and sent a letter to PAM clients via Federal Express “designed to falsely give the impression to each client that the client had no choice but to become a client of The Winter Group.” The suit further alleged that “among other misrepresentations, Singel’s letter claimed that ‘all of the services’ previously performed for the client by PAM now ‘will be’ done by his new enterprise; that his new enterprise represented a ‘seamless transition’ from PAM although ‘more effective’ than PAM; and that the client should ‘disregard any other notices’ that it may receive about these matters.” The suit also alleged The Winter Group’s Web site identified five then-current PAM employees who would make the move with him to his new firm, one of whom never intended to leave and did not consent to his name or image being used. The site also listed Winter Group clients, many of whom were PAM clients that had not indicated any intention to switch lobbyists, the suit said. The suit also claimed that Singel took biographical materials and electronic documents compiled by PAM. When reached Thursday, Singel referred calls to Strouss, who could not be reached for comment. As for PAM, Philadelphia-based executive director Ken Davis said “the suit speaks for itself.” He said the firm has hired Judy Borger, a longtime aide to former Congressman Jim Greenwood to replace Singel on an interim basis while it conducts a search for a permanent replacement. Remaining with the Harrisburg office are Lou Crocco, former executive director of the House majority policy committee; Emily White, former deputy secretary for business assistance at the state Department of Community and Economic Development; and Mollie McEnteer, deputy director of former-Gov. Tom Ridge’s southeastern regional office. Several Philadelphia- and Pittsburgh-based law firms have started government relations practices or ancillary businesses in Harrisburg. Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen has a subsidiary called Wolf Block Government Relations; firms such as Buchanan Ingersoll, Dechert and Pepper Hamilton have partners or associates that fill that role while three Saul Ewing lawyers have their own lobbying practice that is not affiliated with the firm. Duane Morris has only four lawyers in its Harrisburg office to complement the government relations entity. “I think you have to make a commitment to the law practice here,” said Buchanan Ingersoll partner Daniel Beren, who heads the firm’s government relations practice from its Harrisburg office. “Buchanan Ingersoll has a strong presence [of 20 attorneys] here. If a firm is not willing to support the government relations work with a legal side, then I think the government relations side will suffer, too.” Wolf Block chairman Mark Alderman said his firm has made a point of having a significant Harrisburg legal presence, with 10 lawyers that are capable of handling matters in areas such as health care, energy, labor and employment, litigation, tax and transactions. The government relations practice, run by longtime Harrisburg lobbyist Richard Gmerek, feeds off the law component and vice versa, he said. “You have to ask yourself why you have it,” Alderman said. “If it’s solely to make money and you have the clients, then you don’t necessarily need the legal piece unless you want to sell the law to those clients. “Our government relations group is a stand-alone profit center, but we have expanded the profitability by cross-referring work between our lawyers and government relations people in Harrisburg.” Duane Morris assumed ownership of PAM in 2000. It was started in 1993 by Davis, a former director of government relations for Rohm & Haas and a current member of the Lower Merion Township board of commissioners, and Stephen Schachman, a former Philadelphia Gas Works CEO and Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems COO. Both are based in Philadelphia while the group also has a presence in Washington, D.C., Trenton, N.J., Wilmington, Del., and Miami, Fla.

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