Second lawsuit filed in Hatfield’s Szawlowski companies dispute 

  • Carl Szawlowski drives the harvester and fills trucks in a field off Coles Meadow Road in Hatfield in July 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Saturday, September 14, 2019

NORTHAMPTON — One of the family members suing the Szawlowski companies, which includes Hatfield’s Szawlowski Potato Farms, is now being sued in Hampshire Superior Court.

Joseph Szawlowski, a former packing house manager at the companies, is alleged to have “improperly and illegally lined his own pockets and used the Szawlowski companies’ employees, assets, and property to do so,” according to allegations in a lawsuit filed Thursday by the five Szawlowski companies.

The lawsuit also alleges that Szawlowski, of Hatfield, stole potatoes from the Szawlowski companies and sold them for cash, used farm labor and resources for his own gain, undermined the implementation of business policies at the Szawlowski companies and purchased excessive amounts of supplies.

Joseph is the son of Stanley Szawlowski, one of the three brothers who own the Szawlowski companies, the others being Frank and Chester Szawlowski. Joseph Szawlowski denied the allegations Friday in a phone interview with the Gazette.

“It’s obviously just a retaliation,” he said, after reading the lawsuit. “There’s no factual basis.”

Jeffrey Robbins of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP in Boston, one of the attorneys representing the Szawlowski companies, declined to comment on the lawsuit. When first contacted Friday, Joseph Szawlowski said that he wasn’t aware that he had been sued and had not seen the lawsuit.

In August, Joseph Szawlowski and his father sued the Szawlowski companies, as well as Frank, Chester, Frank’s daughters, Melanie Wickles and Shelley Szawlowski, and Chester’s daughter Pamela Szawlowski. Joseph has his father’s power of attorney. Their lawsuit alleges that Stanley Szawlowski is being forced out of the business, that company funds are being misused, and that Joseph was terminated from his position at C&F Farms the business day after his father requested records of the Szawlowski companies.

“It’s really a sad thing what’s happening,” Joseph Szawlowski said.

The lawsuit filed Thursday states that Stanley Szawlowski has not been involved in the daily operations of the companies for five to seven years, “due to the severe deterioration of his physical and mental health.”

The Szawlowski companies, all of which are based in Hatfield, consist of Szawlowski Potato Farms, C&F Farms, Szawlowski Realty, J&S Farms and Szawlowski Packers. The lawsuit against Joseph Szawlowski says that the Szawlowski companies own and operate the largest potato farm in New England, while Joseph and his father’s lawsuit indicates that the value of the companies is more than $15 million.

The companies’ lawsuit claims that Joseph Szawlowski was fired for poor performance, as well as a failure to appropriately communicate with other executives and managers and a refusal to comply with company policies. He is also accused of “creating a toxic work environment,” as well as having “repeatedly disparaged the Szawlowski companies’ products,” not using the companies’ email and payroll system, and inflating the time that he worked.

The lawsuit details alleges Joseph Szawlowski stole potatoes from the company and sold them to local restaurants and third parties as well as culled potatoes to other farms – and that he engaged in schemes that involved using labor, property and equipment from the companies to benefit himself.

The lawsuit also alleges that Joseph Szawlowksi had the Szawlowski companies pay the property tax on land he purchased to dock his personal boat and that he obtained a low-interest mortgage from Farm Credit East Bank on his personal residence by representing that he is a farmer and the property is used for farming purposes.

“Defendant is not a farmer and has never used his property for farming purposes,” the lawsuit reads.

The three-count lawsuit seeks compensatory damages and a jury trial.