Manufacturing family’s dispute heads to court

A family dispute threatens to dissolve Miltronics Manufacturing Services, a Keene firm that makes electronic fences to restrict pets as well as circuit boards.

His mother, Cleo Neary, and brother, Stephen Nearly, charge in their lawsuit that Anton Neary, the company’s chief executive and majority stockholder, was using company funds to benefit himself personally and has been acting erratically.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Concord last week.

According to the suit, Anton Neary also kicked the plaintiffs off the board, replacing replace them with his wife and son, both of whom had little experience, slashed their compensation by a decimal point, and eventually fired them, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are asking that the company be dissolved.

Anton Neary said the suit was “98 percent fabrication, and I’ll be vindicated,” but he would not comment further without reviewing the matter with his attorney.

The following sums up the charges in the lawsuit:

Cleo Neary, who now resides in Delray Beach, Fla., as does her Stephen, founded the company with her two sons in 1998 (Anton says he started it with two other partners a year earlier, and then it became a family business). But a year or two later, according to the suit, “Anton began to badger and browbeat his mother” to persuade her to transfer a majority interest to himself, promising his mother and brother lifetime employment, positions on the board of directors and 49 percent of the profits.

Cleo worked as a payroll supervisor and Steve managed sales marketing and customer relationships, while Anton was the CEO. But about 2000, Stephen accused Anton of using Miltronics funds for personal travel expenses, country club memberships and non-business entertainment expenses. He also criticized him from being absent from the workplace.

As matters escalated, Stephen began to work more from his winter residence in Florida, which angered his brother further, the suit charges. It was at that time that Anton removed another brother – James Neary, a New York investment banker who is not a party to the suit – and replaced him with his wife Elisabeth. who also later replaced Cleo as secretary. Elisabeth has very little experience, though she did receive a salary even though “she performed no services,” the suit alleges.

Stephen and his mother began demanding financial information, but in March 2006, Anton provided “illegible” copies of internal draft statements. And it was in March when Anton used his majority position to remove Stephen from the board, replacing him with his 18-year-old son Matthew Neary, who also had no business experience.

The following month Anton notified his brother and mother that their duties would be truncated and their compensation would be reduced from an aggregate of $100,000 to $120,000 to $10,000.

In May, however, Anton agreed to hold off on the salary cuts while his mother and sister brother an attempt to buy him out, according to the suit. When that failed, Anton fired his mother and brother.

If Cleo and Stephen don’t succeed in dissolving the company, the suit says, they wish to be reinstated as both employees and directors. The two are asking for an accounting of all payments made by Miltronics to Anton and his immediate family and to pay back any personal benefits. The suit also names Anton, his wife Elisabeth and son Matthew. – BOB SANDERS

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