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Bon-Ton sues former executive over performance

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The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. has sued a former top executive, stating he did not perform his job, tried to cover up his poor performance and is not entitled to severance pay.

Gary Pralle was hired in January 2012 as director of stores for the Mid-Atlantic region and terminated for cause — specifically, breach of fiduciary duty — on Jan. 23, 2014, according to documents on file in the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The lawsuit does not specify a dollar amount on which Judge Yvette Kane is asked to rule, but says it is more than $75,000.

The suit alleges, among other things, that Pralle spent only 57 percent of his time between November 2012 and November 2013 in the region for which he was responsible. That includes, but was not limited to, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In fact, the suit alleges he never visited any of the 23 stores for which he was responsible in Ohio during that time.

At the same time, Pralle was living in Fort Myers, Fla., and commuting to Bon-Ton headquarters in York a few days a week. While the company agreed Pralle could work from home one day a week, it states in the suit that he spent more time than allowed there.

“Defendant was absent from the territory during plaintiff’s second-busiest sales volume weekend of the year due to the fact that he was traveling to Florida,” Bon-Ton states in the suit. “Defendant attempted to mislead plaintiff as to his whereabouts through vague entries on his travel schedule.”

Meanwhile, the lawsuit claims, Bon-Ton’s review of Pralle’s travel expenses for November 2012 through December 2013 found that he billed the company for items to which he was not entitled.

That includes travel to and from Florida, which the company considers a commuting expense; staying in expensive hotels, such as the Four Seasons in Philadelphia, instead of mid-priced hotels; getting a rental car that was not part of his agreement with the company; and apparently drinking alcohol during the workday, as he submitted for reimbursement of alcohol during meals.

The suit says that, because Pralle was fired for poor performance, he is not entitled to severance of one times his base salary to which he was entitled under the Executive Severance Pay Plan. His salary is not disclosed in the lawsuit.

Bon-Ton also states in the suit that, after terminating Pralle, it searched his emails and found pornographic material and documents containing racial slurs.

A phone number for Pralle could not be found; a message left through Facebook for a Gary Pralle who lives in Fort Myers, Fla., was not returned.

A phone call to Richard Hackman, an attorney with Barley Snyder in York who is representing Bon-Ton, was not returned.

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