December 2, 2010

Office dA Entangled in Internal Conflict

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The partners of the architectural firm that is designing Cornell’s permanent bridge barriers are currently engaged in a personal feud and court battle for control of the company, The Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de Leon have worked together in the Boston-based Office dA for two decades. But now Tehrani is seeking to dissolve the firm, while Ponce de Leon is suing for recognition as owner.

The dispute results from Ponce de Leon’s 51-percent ownership of the firm. Discord ensued when Tehrani found that Ponce de Leon had withdrawn $43,000 from the company account last December and then later changed the locks at the company’s headquarters, locking Tehrani out, according to The Globe.

Speaking with The Sun Thursday, Ponce de Leon called The Globe article “grossly inaccurate and full of errors.” An e-mail from Howard Brown, the lawyer representing Ponce de Leon and Office dA, called Ponce de Leon the President of Office dA and said she “terminated” Tehrani’s position because of his “removal of $240,000 from the bank account without a legitimate business reason. “

According to Ponce de Leon, the firm’s internal strife will have no impact on the barrier project at Cornell.

Ponce de Leon emphasized that Office dA will maintain a close dialogue with University administrators and with University Architect Gilbert Delgado throughout the lawsuits.

“We are very committed to Cornell as a client and they have been aware of the ongoing lawsuit,” she stated. “My team continues to work tirelessly [on] the project.”

Ponce de Leon added that she does not expect the current con­troversy to result in the firm’s demise.

“Office dA will not be dissolved and I don’t expect the [bridge barrier] project will be impacted,” she said.

Tehrani, for his part, declined to discuss the lawsuits until after speaking to the judge later this week.

“We will have clarity about our case as soon as the judge rules on this case,” he said by e-mail.

In the meantime, Tommy Bruce, vice president for University communications, said he and fellow University administrators were carefully monitoring the situation.

“It is always unfortunate to see a successful partnership come under such strains,” Bruce stated. “Those of us at Cornell University who are responsible for overseeing this contract will be following the situation closely in the days ahead.”

Original Author: Eliza LaJoie