STOCKTON — Sun-Diamond Growers said it intends to sue its former president and auditors over $44 million in overpayments to walnut and raisin growers in the farm cooperative.
Directors, who held a special meeting last Wednesday, announced in a prepared statement that the board also had fired President Frank Light and William Dabney, the cooperative's executive vice president of finance.
Light was ousted in December as active leader of the Stockton-based marketing cooperative and was scheduled to begin early retirement Feb. 18. The board fired him Feb. 10 to avoid paying a lucrative pension.
The board is considering civil claims "against a number of parties" and already has directed its attorney to prepare complaints against Light and the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand.
The board was advised by its attorney not to discuss the legal action in light of the decision to sue.
Previous reports of overpayments indicated excess profits had been paid to growers for as long as eight years.
An independent audit by Touche Ross last month confirmed earlier reports about the size of overpayments, and a Los Angeles law firm was retained to conduct a fraud investigation.
The cooperative launched a major management shuffle after the financial mess was discovered late last year. Changes continued Thursday with the appointment of attorney Barry F. Kriebel to the new position of Sun-Maid raisin division general manager.
Kriebel, 36, was the cooperative's general counsel and senior vice president of administration. He will be part of a new level of management between corporate executives and the produce division's plant managers.