Berkeley Patients Group, a California medical marijuana dispensary operator, is suing the executive director of Augusta-based Northeast Patients Group for allegedly breaching her employment contract by failing to disclose negotiations with another financial backer.

The lawsuit against Rebecca DeKeuster and Northeast Patients Group was filed July 6 in Cumberland County Superior Court and seeks repayment of $632,195 in loans. It also asks that the court order DeKeuster, of Augusta, to end her association with Northeast Patients Group.

The complaint alleges DeKeuster, while being paid by Berkeley, used confidential information to strike a deal with a new financial backer and didn’t tell the California group about those talks.

DeKeuster’s contract with Berkeley precludes her from discussing confidential information about the company or its affiliates without written consent from Berkeley. It also bars her from competing with Berkeley for two years following the end of her employment with Berkeley.

DeKeuster, who had worked for Berkeley Patients Group since 2004, was assigned in 2010 to lead the organization’s effort to open dispensaries in Maine at a salary of $111,000.

But the effort has foundered. A year ago, Northeast was awarded licenses to operate four of Maine’s eight dispensaries. While most of the other clinics have opened, none of Northeast’s have.

DeKeuster resigned from her position as New England expansion director for Berkeley on Feb. 25, two days after signing the letter of intent with the new investor, a Rhode Island-based organization backed by Cuttino Mobley.

Mobley is a former University of Rhode Island basketball standout who had an 11-year career with four NBA teams before retiring because of health issues in 2008.

Berkeley’s complaint doesn’t mention Mobley. But the February letter of intent between Northeast and Mobley Pain Management and Wellness Center LLC does, outlining a $2 million financial commitment from Mobley.

In exchange for financing, Mobley is to retain the exclusive right to supply Northeast with drinks, edibles, topical solutions and tinctures.

The deal includes a $100,000 bridge loan effective upon the signing of the Feb. 23 letter. The letter says the remainder would be disbursed in three installments during an 18-month period, starting when a formal agreement was finalized.

In her resignation letter, DeKeuster said she “will accept employment at Northeast Patients Group effective shortly.”

Catherine Cobb, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, said she was aware of talks between Northeast and Mobley, but said no agreement had been finalized.

She said Mobley has provided Northeast with “some amount of money” for its cultivation site in Thomaston, where marijuana has been growing since June to supply Northeast’s four dispensaries.

Cobb said she expects Northeast to open a dispensary in Thomaston soon.

But the group has yet to secure locations for the three dispensaries it has the exclusive right to open in Maine’s three biggest markets: Portland, Augusta and the Bangor area.

Northeast’s attorney, Daniel Walker of Preti Flaherty, wrote in a statement Wednesday that the group had intended to have all the clinics open in 2010, but its funding fell through.

“We do expect to have the necessary funding and support to open the dispensaries in the very near term,” he said.

Cobb said she expected Northeast to submit a new plan this week for financing the dispensaries.

“I think all of us would have liked this to happen faster,” she said.

Neither DeKeuster nor Cuttino Mobley’s attorney, Terry Fracassa, returned phone calls Wednesday.

With funding from Berkeley Patients Group, Northeast submitted applications to run four dispensaries, each of which required a $15,000 fee. Seventeen groups submitted 29 applications for the eight licenses.

Walker said he wouldn’t specifically address the allegations in the lawsuit, but said Northeast disagrees with the facts presented in the complaint and plans to file a response within the next few weeks.

Berkeley Patients Group spokesman Brad Sesnac declined comment.


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