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August 30, 2001 06:39 PM

Cher was taken to Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday by Salvatore Sampino, a former employee who worked on renovating the pop diva’s $25-million Malibu estate, reports CourtTV.com. Sampino, who was the payroll supervisor on the lengthy work project, is alleging that he was coerced into administering a construction site that was rife with labor violations and that he was fired when he voiced his objections. He charges that when Cher, 55, discharged him she said, “You have to be mean to be queen.” (The Malibu property was recently put up for sale, reported the Los Angeles Times.) Besides airing what he considers Cher’s dirty laundry, Sampino is also suing her for a minimum of $1.5 million. According to legal papers filed on behalf of Sampino, “This case involves an extreme example of the abuse of raw power by a celebrity whose great wealth and ego convinced her that she and the companies that she controls are above the law.” Liz Rosenberg, the singer’s publicist, firmly denies his charges, telling CourtTV.com, “There were no improprieties . . . She doesn’t think she did anything wrong. She wants to have her name cleared.” Also, the star refuses to strike a deal over the skirmish with Sampino. Explained Rosenberg: “If she didn’t do anything wrong, why should she settle?”

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