Joe Gibbs has initiated a lawsuit against the Stanislaus Community Assistance Project, claiming he's owed $496,000 in unpaid compensation.
The Modesto nonprofit housing agency said it was notified of the lawsuit Friday. The wrongful termination complaint was filed Wednesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Gibbs was the development director for SCAP, and his wife, Denise Gibbs, was executive director, before SCAP's board of directors fired them "for cause" in late December.
After several months of controversy over their management of the agency, the SCAP board suspended the husband-and-wife team Nov. 30 pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
The couple also is believed to be the focus of an FBI probe; agents served search warrants at their Riverbank home and SCAP's Modesto office in early December.
Joe Gibbs claims in the lawsuit that he was terminated without notice and that SCAP refused to pay him for bonuses and unused vacation.
According to the complaint, SCAP agreed at board meetings between 2004 and 2011 to pay him a 4 percent commission on the value of funding generated by his grant writing. A Bee story last May showed that those grant-writing bonuses boosted his earnings to $627,000 in the 2009-10 fiscal year and that SCAP reported paying $195,860 of that to Gibbs.
SCAP announced in June that Gibbs had decided to forgo the remaining $430,000 or so. But despite that announcement nine months ago, the lawsuit indicates that Gibbs is now seeking that amount, plus additional bonuses.
The lawsuit claims the agency owed him a total of $484,643 in unpaid bonuses up to his termination on Dec. 30. It doesn't include a dollar amount for unused vacation time.
A SCAP spokesman said in a statement Friday that the agency took steps to treat him fairly and ethically.
"I don't believe we breached our contract with Joe Gibbs," board member Roger Stirlen said in the statement. "We will do our best not to let this distract us from our responsibility to help the neediest in our community and the job we're doing to reform our organization since the departure of Joe and Denise Gibbs."
Joe Gibbs is the only plaintiff named in the complaint, which was filed on his behalf by Modesto attorney Alonzo Gradford. The attorney didn't return messages from The Bee requesting comment.
"It's an ongoing legal issue and my lawyer advised me not to make a comment," Joe Gibbs said Friday.
Gibbs suggested in a February interview that he may dispute the authenticity of the June 3 letter that said he was forgoing the $430,000 in commissions.
SCAP representatives released the letter, purportedly written by Gibbs, a few days after a May 29 Bee report stirred public outrage over his compensation deal.
The letter said Gibbs initially reached an agreement with then-Board Chairman Darryl Fair to be paid the $430,000 over a six-year period, "because that is an amount in excess of what should be compensated to a nonprofit director."
The letter also said, however, that Gibbs had decided to forgo the $430,000 because "the distorted allegations and innuendo" that his and the agency's conduct was improper had created a distraction for SCAP and its clients.
After The Bee learned recently that Gibbs was demanding the bonus money from SCAP, he suggested that someone else had signed his name to the June letter.
Gibbs' lawsuit is set for a July 9 case management conference before Superior Court Judge Hurl Johnson.
In the past nine months, SCAP also came under scrutiny for how it spent more than $8 million in federal funds to renovate housing intended for special needs tenants.
The city of Modesto blasted the agency in October for allowing Denise Gibbs' parents to live for months in a Rumble Road home, which had received stylish upgrades, and for letting family members of former Housing Director Caryl Prunty occupy several other renovated dwellings.
Prunty was terminated in February.
The focus of the FBI investigation is uncertain, but agents are known to have seized computer files related to the agency's grant-funded programs during the search in December.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.