The National Rifle Association has sued its former president, Oliver North, for what it called "conduct harmful to the NRA" as turmoil that was exposed publicly when North resigned two months ago continued Thursday when the organization also turned against its longtime chief lobbyist.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in New York sought a judge's declaration that the NRA isn't required to pay North's legal bills.
North stepped down from the post in April after serving for a year. The lawsuit said he "departed office after a widely publicized, failed coup attempt."
The suit also accused top NRA official Chris W. Cox of conspiring with North to oust the organization's chief executive, Wayne LaPierre.
The New York Times reported that the NRA has suspended Cox, who said the allegations were "offensive and patently false."
A message left for North through his website wasn't immediately returned. An NRA spokesman did not return multiple messages.
Cox has been the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA's political and lobbying arm, since 2002.
Its website boasts that Cox has "achieved some of its most significant political and legislative victories."
Yet, the lawsuit said, "another errant NRA fiduciary, Chris Cox — once thought by some to be a likely successor for Mr. LaPierre — participated" in North's conspiracy to enable the NRA's longtime advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen Inc., which employed North, to gain control of its largest client.
"As became widely publicized, Mr. LaPierre prevailed — and the attempted coup by Ackerman, spearheaded by North, failed," the lawsuit said.
"North has acted in the best interests of himself and Ackerman and at the expense of the interests of the NRA, engaged in conduct harmful to the NRA, and persistently failed to provide to the NRA important details related to his lucrative contract with Ackerman," the lawsuit said.
Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for NRA's lobbying arm who was quoted by the Times saying that "any notion Chris participated in a coup is absurd," responded to a message seeking comment Thursday with an email saying she is not authorized to discuss personnel matters.
Last month, the NRA and Ackerman sued each other. The NRA said Ackerman had soiled its reputation and breached confidentiality agreements while Ackerman maintained the NRA had damaged its business.
North, 75, was a military aide to the National Security Council in the 1980s when his role arranging the secret sale of weapons to Iran and the diversion of the proceeds to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua was revealed.
In 1989, he was convicted of obstructing Congress during its investigation, destroying government documents and accepting an illegal gratuity. Two years later, the convictions were reversed.