Square 1 Burger co-founder squares off with accounting partner in rival suits

in Local Courts by
Ray Leich

While there may be two sides to every story, in one pair of competing lawsuits, it is difficult to determine on which side the truth stands.

Leich & Teeling is a Tampa CPA firm co-owned by Barbara Teeling and Ray Leich, both 58; up until 2009, the company was only owned by Leich.

Leich and his wife are co-founders of the popular Square 1 Burgers chain of restaurants.

In a suit filed Nov. 7, Leich asserted that Teeling stole company funds among other claims. On the other side of the fence. An opposing suit, filed Dec. 5, has Teeling arguing that it’s the other way around.

Because the company is split equally between the two partners, the public accounting firm is considered an “S” corporation and the owners must equally share profits, according to the suit filed by Teeling.

Leich’s suit against Teeling claims that the firm would equalize the partners’ distribution accounts at the closing of the books each year. That didn’t stop Teeling from requesting accounts be equalized 12 days before taxes were due this year.

Leich responded to her request by assuring Teeling it would be taken care of. Since the date of the request, Leich claims he has found a disparity in the books: Teeling was, he claims, taking money from the firm.

Barbara Teeling

Leich believes Teeling used the firm’s AmEx card for personal use. He claims she also set up a secondary account in the company’s name and used it to deposit client payments. From there she would take the money out for her own purposes.

Leich lists several instances where money was stolen from the firm, he uncovered this from April 8 to May 16. When he emailed Teeling about the money, excuses were given; $37,000 of it was returned, leaving the whereabouts of the remaining $129,500 unknown.

As per the suit, the false account was closed after Leich found out about it.

Leich later claims that in September, Teeling informed him she would be leaving the firm. However, she asked to keep it private. No formal notice was ever given to Leich.

Teeling contacted the firm’s clients to notify them of her departure. She, allegedly, told clients Leich wasn’t in good health, a claim he says is false. Leich also believes that Teeling plotted to recruit all of the firm’s employees over to her new firm.

Alternatively, Teeling claims that Leich “is the perpetrator of the wrongful conduct asserted in this complaint and has already refused multiple opportunities to rectify his wrongful actions.” These so-called “wrongful” actions are described in the suit filed by Teeling against Leich.

Teeling stated that Leich took excessive distributions, jeopardizing the firm’s status as an “S” corporation. Leich has, allegedly, refused to return the funds removed from the PA’s account, despite multiple requests.

This suit claims that Leich was using company credit cards for personal expenses. It also states that he has taken time out of his workday to work on other endeavors, although Teeling never agreed to let him become a part-time employee. Teeling also believes funds from the firm were used to start up Square 1 Burgers.

Teeling believes that Leich told clients she was resigning from the firm, a statement she insists is false.

Leich and Teeling previously worked together at a national accounting firm. In 1992, the two left to start a “boutique” accounting firm.