SAN FRANCISCO, April 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Opening statements will be made today in the lawsuit against the Koret Foundation that accuses longtime president Tad Taube of sexual harassment and Taube and other Koret board members of fraud, self-dealing and conflicts of interest in funding personal pet projects that serve their own interests.
The trial begins at 10 a.m. today in San Francisco Superior Court, 400 McAllister St., Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow, Department 304, San Francisco. It is expected to last two weeks.
The lawsuit, filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court, accuses Taube and the Koret Board of Directors of long ignoring the priorities established by the foundation's founder, Joseph Koret, to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.
Instead, the suit brought by Mr. Koret's widow, Susan Koret, claims the Koret board continues to use foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members, including Anita Friedman of Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh, and Michael Boskin and Abraham Sofaer of the Hoover Institution.
Many of the grants gifted under this board's leadership directly benefited organizations in which they have an interest, including rightwing political causes and Taube's home country of Poland. Taube directed millions to support the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
Taube has called giving to the poor a "bottomless pit," and largely ignored the priorities established by the late Joe Koret. Taube created a culture of directors who rubberstamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported, according to the lawsuit. The suit also claims that the Koret board has purposely confused the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube's name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.
"In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation," the lawsuit claimed.
Beyond a breach of fiduciary duties, the trial will also accuse Taube of sexually harassing female employees and grant recipients and will feature a series of high-profile and key witnesses who will testify to this point, according to lawyers for Mrs. Koret.
Former Koret Foundation Kirsten Mickelwaite will testify to Taube's harassment of her in the workplace by pressuring her to date his much order, personal friend -- or risk losing her job.
According to the deposition of Mickelwaite, the Koret Foundation's former communications officer, Taube insisted she go on a date with his friend and later advised her to consider the financial benefits of the relationship.
"Listen sweetheart, sex – you know, sex comes and goes but money is for a lifetime," Taube said at the time, according to Mickelwaite's testimony.
Mrs. Koret's lawsuit further demands the removal of board members Taube and Greene, his longtime legal counsel, due to self-dealing and fraud.
Documents exposed as part of the trial show Koret directors profited from the sale of millions of dollars of Koret Foundation real estate assets to a business associate, Prometheus Real Estate Group of San Mateo, Calif., for 'side deals' that benefited Taube.
Prometheus bought two large Foundation real estate property interests in 2014 but Prometheus, through its president Jaclyn Safier, has sought to seal closing statements and transaction documents showing financial payments and related deposition testimony from the public, according to attorney Rob Bunzel of Bartko Zankel Bunzel, attorneys for Mrs. Koret.
The suit pleads breach of charitable trust for an injunction against all of the directors, including Friedman, Boskin, Sofaer and Michael Atkinson, former president of the University of California.
"Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband's top priorities, and I hope to restore this great Foundation to the intention of its founder," said Mrs. Koret. "Joe and Stephanie's money shouldn't be used for Tad Taube's pet projects in Poland, to help conservative economic and policy think tanks or to line the pockets of a few wealthy individuals --not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support."
To learn more about the lawsuit, visit www.savekoret.org
SOURCE Susan Koret