Roger Nance, the former vice president of Westerlund Log Handlers, has been removed from the former log processor’s long-standing legal battle against timber magnate Dennis Murphy and his companies over log exports at the Port of Astoria.
The terms of Nance’s removal are kept private by a protective order. His dismissal leaves the company, its President David Westerlund and his wife Lori as plaintiffs against Murphy and his companies.
Westerlund Log Handlers brought log exports back to the Port in 2010 after a long hiatus. Originally resisted, the company was later heralded for creating jobs and returning a traditional export to the region.
But by 2014, Westerlund Log Handlers had become embroiled in a lawsuit with state-owned China National Building Materials Import and Export Corporation and CNBM Forest Products, which bought much of the regional timber exported from Pier 1 and had loaned Westerlund Log Handlers money for equipment.
Murphy, a former co-owner of Eugene -based Murphy Timber Co., stepped in, allegedly paying $2.55 million three years ago to settle the case and release liens on Westerlund Log Handlers’ equipment. The Murphy and Westerlund parties signed a contract in January 2014, in which Westerlund was to transport, store, process and prepare logs procured by Murphy for export. But the partnership quickly soured.
In July 2015, the two sides filed concurrent lawsuits alleging breaches of their agreement. The cases were later consolidated.
Westerlund and Nance claimed they were unfairly pushed out of the partnership and a profit-sharing agreement. The Murphy parties claimed they had covered the expenses of Westerlund Log Handlers, whose lease was later terminated and transferred to Murphy-owned Astoria Forest Products in exchange for past-due bills being paid off.
Astoria Forest Products has since developed Pier 3 into a log-processing yard, from which scaled timber is driven to Pier 1 for export on bulk log carriers.
The Westerlunds are still seeking partial summary judgment for alleged breaches of agreement with the Murphy parties, broken promises, misappropriation of trade secrets and fraud. The Murphy parties are seeking dismissal of the Westerlunds’ claims.
The attorneys representing the Westerlunds and Nance recently dropped themselves out of the case, citing “professional considerations.” The Westerlunds’ new attorney recently made a first appearance. Discovery in the case is expected to continue into June.