Ousted Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe was accused in a lawsuit by the right-wing group Wednesday of misusing funds, ridiculing pregnant employees and other “troubling” workplace behavior.
The allegations were among several in a Manhattan Federal Court breach-of-contract lawsuit against O’Keefe, two former Project Veritas employees, and an eponymous limited liability outfit he created during his breakup with the organization he founded.
The suit comes weeks after the provocateur’s May 15 firing following his suspension and removal from the Project Veritas board amid concerns over his management style and allegations he was using donor funds to splurge on personal expenses.
Project Veritas’ board placed O’Keefe on paid leave in February upon learning of numerous disturbing allegations, according to the lawsuit, including that he screamed at and belittled his employees, was “routinely late for meetings and rude” at donor events, and had been using the company account as his personal piggy bank.
The board heard that O’Keefe “particularly targeted female employees with mean-spirited comments about their lack of contributions to the companies and inappropriate comments about personal situations like pregnancies,” according to the suit.
“Other employees alleged that they personally had observed obscene messages between O’Keefe and various women on social media applications when accessing O’Keefe’s phone for work-related matters.”
O’Keefe, 38, a self-proclaimed “guerrilla journalist,” founded the Westchester-based group in 2010, which describes itself as a media organization “aimed at exposing corruption” in public and private institutions.
O’Keefe’s former coworkers allege he was hostile and belligerent toward them. The suit lays out a tumultuous period preceding his termination, in which he was accused of “incredibly troubling” workplace behavior and rampant financial misconduct.
“Being known as the founder of an organization does not entitle that person to run amok and put his own interests ahead of that organization,” reads the complaint. “O’Keefe must be held accountable(.)”
O’Keefe is accused of using his company credit card to pay for personal helicopter flights and more than $150,000 in private car services over 18 months, often having drivers wait outside restaurants for hours. His employees told the board he made them run errands unrelated to work, like doing his laundry and cleaning and repairing his boat, according to the suit.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages and that O’Keefe be prohibited from disclosing confidential company information, among other demands, alleges he poached employees on his way out the door for his new rival venture O’Keefe Media Group, stole donor lists and equipment, and rebranded unpublished filmed material.
O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2010 in a scheme with two others to dress up as telephone repairmen and sneak into Democratic Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office.
O’Keefe could not be reached for comment. Lawyers who previously represented him did not respond to The News’s inquiries.