Charles and Mary Elizabeth Airey for more than a year attended sessions – couples counseling, he said – to strengthen their marriage.
The Alden couple confided to an Amherst woman intimate details of their sex life. And with her help, they came up with ways to rekindle their relationship, like taking walks together and going to the casino and spending the night at a hotel.
But the marriage broke up anyway.
And what of the Amherst woman who Charles Airey thought was trying to help his marriage?
His wife admitted having a sexual relationship with her, Airey said.
And after his wife served him with divorce papers, he said, he found her in bed with the woman in his own home.
Now, a judge has ruled the 59-year-old Alden man can move ahead with his lawsuit against the woman, Amy Remmele, and Peak of Success, her Amherst consulting business.
Airey has sued Remmele, alleging she had a secret sexual relationship with his then-wife during the time Remmele was holding sessions with the couple to strengthen their marriage.
“I placed my trust in [Remmele] and anticipated that she would act with the highest integrity and loyalty to both me and my then-wife,” he said in court papers. “Instead, rather than remain loyal to both me and my wife and help us strengthen our marriage, [she] breached this trust, began having a sexual relationship with my wife and participated in the dissolution of our marriage.”
As a result, he said, he has suffered emotional distress.
In her affidavit to the court, Remmele denied being a marriage counselor.
“I never have held myself out as a marriage counselor, and I never have contracted to provide marriage counseling services," she said. “I did not provide marriage counseling service to Mr. Airey at any time.”
Remmele’s website refers to her as a “coach, consultant, trainer and speaker.”
“The allegations are false,” Lisa A. Coppola, Remmele’s lawyer, said of the lawsuit. “He’s made allegations that are transparently malicious and untrue.”
Coppola said Remmele was a communications coach for Airey and his then-wife. Mary Elizabeth Airey.
“My client has never been involved with Mr. Airey in the context he’s making a claim about,” Coppola said.
State Supreme Court Justice Patrick H. NeMoyer, however, said Airey sufficiently alleged that Remmele held herself out as a marriage counselor.
“It is apparent to the court that defendant may have held herself out to the public as someone qualified to counsel individuals or couples in their relationships, including their marriages,” NeMoyer said in his Oct. 15 ruling.
So the judge has allowed Airey to pursue his breach-of-contract claim against her.
“I think Judge NeMoyer’s decision was correct,” said Duane D. Schoonmaker, Airey’s lawyer.
Airey’s lawsuit seeks $300,000 in compensatory damages plus unspecified punitive damages for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and fraud.
While NeMoyer said Airey cannot recover damages for the alleged romantic affair between his wife and Remmele, or for the emotional distress or mental anguish such an affair might have caused, he can sue for “out-of-pocket” damages arising from any contract with Remmele.
“This court would have no problem with [Airey] recouping any money he had paid to [Remmele] specifically for marital counseling if, as alleged, Remmele did not in fact use her best efforts to help the marriage but instead subverted it by embarking on a sexual relationship with plaintiff’s wife,” NeMoyer said.
Remmele, 55, had asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
After NeMoyer denied her request, she filed a counterclaim Nov. 5, accusing Airey of slander and of trying to harm her reputation.
The Alden couple’s divorce was granted in July.
LinkedIn, a professional networking site, lists Airey’s ex-wife as a partner at Peak of Success. The company’s website includes a photograph of Remmele and Mary Elizabeth Airey together. And the two women obtained a business certificate together in August 2011 for another firm, according to county clerk records.
Airey, in his affidavit, said his then-wife met Remmele at the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College.
In late 2009, Remmele “began providing couples counseling to me and my then-wife in an effort to strengthen our marriage by strengthening our communication skills.” She met with the couple periodically through early 2011.
Remmele “encouraged us to speak openly of our intimate sexual life,” Airey said.
By November 2010, Remmele talked to the couple about broadening her services to include business coaching for Airey’s business, Alden Pools Inc., he said in his court papers.
Copies of emails included in the legal filing indicate Remmele provided business communication coaching and strategic planning for Alden Pools on a couple of occasions.
On Jan. 18, 2011, Airey sent Remmele an email expressing concern the marriage counseling and business coaching had begun to blend together.
“I believed that the two services should not be blended together and I would no longer work with the defendant for marital counseling,” he said in his affidavit.
Still, on Jan. 28, 2011, he attended a session in which Remmele discussed the “common ground activities” for the Aireys, including entertaining, walking, watching television, going to the casino and sex.
NeMoyer cited a summary from that session.
“A summary of a January 2011 session “tends to show that [Remmele] counseled the couple with regard to their personal or marital relationship as well as their relationship at work,” NeMoyer said in his ruling.
The summary included a list of “common ground activities that Chuck and Mary Beth can engage in and discuss,” including “sex” and “walking on Sunday mornings.”
“That evening, as part of the marital counseling plan encouraged by defendant, my wife and I planned to have an intimate dinner at the Seneca Niagara Casino and spend the night at the hotel,” Airey said in court papers. “My wife asked me whether the defendant could dine with us.”
Two months later, Airey said, he received a letter from his wife’s lawyer, advising him she was seeking a divorce.
“Shortly before, and during the course of the divorce proceedings, I learned that my [then] wife and the defendant were engaged in a sexual relationship,” Airey said in his affidavit. “My wife admitted that she and the defendant had been engaged in a sexual relationship since at least Jan. 28, 2011.”
In court papers, Airey said he found his wife in bed with Remmele in his home in February, when divorce proceedings were already under way.
Remmele contends her sessions with the Aireys concerned the pool business.
She billed the business $2,100 in her first deal for a retreat and follow-up sessions and consultations with employees.
In January 2011, a second contract in which she agreed to provide “a strategic planning meeting” called for her to receive a pool and trampoline. She said she received neither.
The summary of the January 2011 session makes clear the meeting “concerned plaintiff’s business and in no way constituted marriage counseling,” Remmele said in her affidavit. “To the extent that plaintiff’s relationship with his wife came up, it was in the context of communications issues between husband and wife business partners.”
Peak of Success, she said, is a consulting business that helps individuals and business people improve communication skills, increase productivity and improve team building.
In court papers, Coppola, Remmele’s lawyer, called Airey’s lawsuit “a frivolous, poorly disguised attempt to plead claims for alienation of affection.”
New York laws prohibits jilted spouses from suing for that, Coppola said.
“Women aren’t property,” Coppola said. “He didn’t own his former wife, and he does not have a right to sue someone he alleges is now in a personal relationship with his former wife.”
The counterclaim seeks punitive damages from Airey.
His “malicious intent is based on blaming defendants for his divorce and for his having to pay out assets from the marital estate to his ex-wife as part of the divorce,” according to the counterclaim.