Fort Lauderdale’s best known public relations firm has collapsed with one principal charging his long time partner plundered the company.

The charges are contained in a lawsuit Gary Bitner filed this week against his former partner at Bitner Goodman – Michael Goodman.

Goodman is alleged to have stolen everything down to the company espresso machine….Really!

“I was a 50 percent equal owner, so I was entitled to certain things, but I didn’t leave him in a situation where he wasn’t operational…You could think of it like a bad marriage where something just changes. There’s not always one thing,” Goodman is quoted by the South Florida Business Journal. “I made it clear I didn’t want to be in this partnership anymore.”

Bitner Goodman has been one of the leading PR firms in Florida with such clients as Winn-Dixie, Simon Property Group, Tri-Rail and the Seminole Tribe.  A former newspaper reporter, Bitner is a decades-long fixture in South Florida business and political circles.

Goodman announced last month he was leaving to form his own business after 10 years with Bitner. According to the lawsuit, the pair each owned half of the company.

In the lawsuit, Bitner said when he “arrived at the office the morning of June 12, 2014, he was 
confronted with a nearly empty office.

“Through the review of surveillance video, Bitner has since discovered that, under the 
cover of darkness on June 11, 2014, Goodman, together with a moving company and several employees including (Beth) Zuckerkorn and (Gene) Broyles, waited until the office had closed for the day—and then looted it.”

Zuckerkorn was vice president of graphic communications. Broyles was the company’s staff accountant and office manager.

The lawsuit alleges that the video shows Goodman and the employees of their firm removing “three pieces of framed art work (and) ….all Company checks and accounting records; office furniture including desks, tables, chairs, printers, televisions, phones, a credenza, and a light fixture; 16 file cabinets and their files; a binding machine with its supplies; all of Bitner Goodman’s art department computers; Bitner’s personal items; more than 15 computers and a server; a vast array of supplies; a shredder; a coffee machine and an espresso machine; and petty cash.”

The suit also claims that Goodman, Zuckerkorn and Broyles invoiced companies for money that should have gone to the business, Bitner Goodman. They also have plotted to steal all Bitner’s clients.

It even claims that Goodman turned off the company’s Twitter and other Internet accounts.

Goodman, Zuckerkorn and Broyles are named in the suit.

Personal disclosure: Gary Bitner is one of the many alumni of the Fort Lauderdale News that I worked with and stayed in touch with over the years.

Bitner emailed me today that the lawsuit complaint “is completely factual and accurate.  Please know that I am continuing to operate the firm, with fewer clients and team members.”

Reprinted with permission from BrowardBeat.com.