Fired BET Exec Makes Accusation


Thursday, August 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — A former financial officer for Black Entertainment Television sued the network and its top executives Wednesday, accusing them of firing him because he wouldn't participate in illegal financial dealings, his attorney said.

Dwight Crawford, BET's chief financial officer for a year until January 2000, is seeking $21 million in damages for financial loss and emotional distress, said Debra Katz, Crawford's attorney.

Crawford's lawsuit, filed in District of Columbia Superior Court, includes charges that BET officials conspired to withhold benefits from employees and evaded paying federal taxes. The suit also accuses BET Chairman Robert Johnson and its president, Debra Lee, of using corporate funds and credit cards for personal purchases written off as business expenses, including sponsoring the competitive horseback riding activities of Johnson's daughter.

Byron F. Marchant, general counsel for BET, said in a statement the lawsuit was ``frivolous and totally without merit.'' He said the network couldn't respond to specific allegations because it has not received official notice or a copy of the lawsuit.

``For several months, BET has been aware of the threat of a lawsuit by Mr. Crawford due to the inability to agree upon financial terms associated with his resignation from the company,'' Marchant said.

The suit contends that Crawford complained about the financial dealings and that when he told Johnson and Lee he wouldn't go along, they demanded his resignation. He said BET fired him when he refused to resign.

``I intend to hold BET accountable for firing me for my adherence to professional and ethical accounting standards,'' Crawford said in a statement.

According to the suit, Crawford was a senior vice president and treasurer with the Discovery Channel before joining BET.

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