Washington businessman Herbert H. Haft has been accused of having a shopping center firm he heads perform as much as $1 million in carpentry, paving, landscaping and other work for himself, family members and friends.
The allegations are part of new claims filed this week in federal court in Alexandria by Vana E. Martin, a former senior executive of Combined Properties Corp. Martin, who is seeking $50 million in damages on behalf of herself and Combined shareholders, also has claimed she was fired earlier this year after "a close personal relationship" ended between her and Haft, chairman of Dart Drug Corp. and Combined.
In her court filing, Martin charges that Haft kept two Combined carpenters busy for months on residences he owned, had $26,000 in private paving work done at Combined's expense, and used a company attorney and Combined's comptroller to work out private legal and tax matters for Haft and his wife.
The suit also claims Haft hired a landscaping service at company expense for chores including "landscaping, trash removal, planting, window washing and chauffeuring about Haft housekeepers and maids."
An attorney representing Haft and Combined yesterday declined to comment on the allegations.
The suit, which alleges misfeasance, malfeasance and fraud by Haft, is the latest development in what has become a bitter feud among Martin, Haft, Combined, and General Maintenance and Development Inc., a firm owned by Martin's son and a friend, Frank R. Nalls.
The battle started in June when General Maintenance sued Combined, owners of 15 Washington-area shopping malls, claiming Combined refused to pay bills and broke contracts because of personal differences between Haft and Martin.
Combined later filed a countersuit, alleging among other things that General Maintenance is a "sham corporation, a device to siphon money from Combined through bogus maintenance contracts."
Hearings are set for Friday in Alexandria on a flurry of legal motions, including a request by Combined for a closed hearing on whether references to the alleged romantic link between Haft and Martin should be stricken from the case as "impertinent and scandalous."
Martin's new claims state that she and Haft maintained their personal relationship from 1965 until sometime last year. Martin contends she had relied on Haft's assurances of his "complete loyalty and interest in her welfare" in working out a proposed stock deal that later allegedly fell through.
According to the suit, Martin served as executive vice president, secretary-treasurer and chief operating and administrative officer of Combined until June, when she was fired by the company's directors.
The suit claims the firing was a breach of a five-year, written employment contract that called for a $100,000 annual salary, paid in advance each fiscal year, with 10 percent annual raises. Martin accepted this "grossly insufficient salary," the suit contends, in anticipation of other rewards, including an option to buy 80,000 shares of Combined common stock using bonuses to be furnished by the company. Martin alleges neither the stock options nor the bonuses ever were delivered.
Further, the suit claims, Haft and Martin agreed to a joint plan to buy shares representing 45 percent of Combined's outstanding common stock after the owner of the shares, Leo Goodwin Jr., died in January 1978. Instead, the shares ultimately were purchased by Combined.
Haft used his influence "with vindictive and malicious intent" to keep her half of the shares -- worth an estimated $2.5 million -- from her, Martin claims. She also is asking $5 million in punitive damages on that point alone.