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Fired Executive Sues SAG-PPHP for Wrongful Termination

Craig Simmons claims he was fired after refusing to cover up embezzlement at the plans

Craig Simmons, the former human resources director for the Screen Actors Guild –Producers Pension & Health Plans, sued the plans for wrongful termination on Thursday. 

Simmons has drummed up a firestorm of controversy with allegations involving fraud and embezzlement at the plans. He has been threatening to sue SAG-PPHP for months. 

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Simmons made good on those threats.

In the filing, Simmons continued to level accusations at SAG-PPHP CEO Bruce Dow, claiming that his former boss covered up embezzlement at the nonprofit and used the plans to reward lucrative contracts to his family members. 

He also alleges that Dow shared  "insider information" about where SAG-PPHP was investing its money to benefit his church, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. 

In the suit, Simmons alleges that he was fired more than a year ago after he reported Dow's cover-up and alleged abuses to two members of the SAG-PPHP board, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and Leah French. 

Also read: Embattled Bruce Dow Extends Leave from SAG Pension & Health Plans

"Defendants' acts, in retaliating against Plaintiff, were carried out by managerial or supervisorial employees, officers, trustees and directors of SAG-PPHP," the suit reads. "These acts were committed, directed and/or ratified by Defendants, and each of them, with a conscious disregard for Plaintiff's rights and with the intent to vex, injury and annoy."

A spokeswoman for the plans did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

Last Fall,  SAG-PPHP launched an independent investigation into Simmons' allegations. In a statement to members, the board of the plans announced that  a review of the charges by an outside counsel found that the bulk of the accusations were false.

However, the investigation did uncover evidence that a former employee misappropriated some $2 million of funds.

Simmons is seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial. SAG-PPHP and several unnamed individuals are listed as defendants. 

Dow took a medical leave in January, but an individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap last week that he is expected to return to his former post.

Many board members are endorsing a scenario that would see Dow return to work for roughly six weeks to “button things up" before retiring. He would then become a consultant for the plans for roughly a year and a half, the individual said. 

Although he leveled the accusations, Simmons' conduct at SAG-PPHP has also received scrutiny.

A report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that Simmons had steered work toward his husband's marketing company to develop a 50th anniversary campaign for the plans. 

In an interview with the Times, Simmons acknowledged that his behavior might have been inappropriate, but he has subsequently backed away from that characterization. 

"Those claims are an absolutely false smokescreen," Simmons told TheWrap. "My husband did one assignment that was approved by Dow. The issue was never raised in my suspension, my termination or when the plans were fighting my unemployment claims."