Friday, February 29, 2008

Divorced wife sought increased child support and alimony from stock broker ex-husband in 2006 from the Scotts Bluff County District court following their divorce in 2002. The husband now lived in India working for Lehman Brothers and earned $550,000 per year plus extra "expatriate compensation" of nearly $10,000 per year. The wife went from earning about $29000 per year soon after the divorce to nothing as of the time she filed the modification. The Nebraska Supreme Court agrees to the District Corut's increase of child support to $4,250 per month for two children and $3,250 per month for one child. T he court denied, however, Lana’s request to increase R obert’s alimony obligation. Nebraska Supreme Court agrees to the child support increase, but denies the alimony increase. Also although the expatriate compensation counts as income for child support purposes the trial court correctly deviated from the guidelines when it accounted for the husbands increased expenses while working in India, including nearly $8000 monthly rent, hiring a private driver and expensive plane trips home. Simpson v. Simpson, S-06-1461, 275 Neb. 152 "The evidence reflects that the additional living expenses incurred by R obert while living in Mumbai are significant. A mong those expenses are rental paymentsof $7,905 per month. R obert’s employer would not allowhim to drive a car in India, and he therefore had to employ a full-time driver. A lso, each trip to and from the United States for holidays, visitation, et cetera, cost $3,000 to $6,000 per trip in airfare. T hese are additional expenses that R obert would

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Nebraska Legislature's version of the Revised Uniform Partnership agreement (RUPA) states its policy that partnership statutes should mostly serve as gap-filling provisions when the parties partnership agreement does not address an issue regarding the partnership. Moreover the State states with the RUPA that it prefers partnerships keep operating while dealing fairly with departing partners rather than having partner departures routinely cause partnership dissolution. The Nebraska Supreme Court rejects withdrawing partner's demand that the Lancaster County District Court should have ordered the parties partnership dissolved when the partner who chose to continue the business failed to timely buy-out the withdrawing partner according to their agreement. Shoemaker v. Shoemaker, S-06-319, 275 Neb. 112 "The UPA ’s default rules are gap-filling rules that control only when a question is not resolved by the parties’express provisions in an agreement. Section 67-404 carries out the legislative intent to make the partnership provisions the controlling rules and the 1998 UPA provisions the default rules. Section 67-431 provides that a partner’s voluntary withdrawal no longer results in mandatory dissolution; it results in a partner’s “dissociation.” S ection 67-433(1) manifests a legislative intent to create separate paths—dissolution and winding up or mandatory buyout—through which a dissociated partner can recover partnership interests: “If a partner’s dissociation results in a dissolution and winding up of the partnership business, sections 67-439 to 67-445 [dealing with dissolution and winding up] apply; otherwise, sections 67-434 to 67-438 [dealing with mandatory buyout] apply.”26 The comment to § 603 of RUPA , the section upon which § 67-433 is patterned, specifically provides that it operates as a “‘switching’” provision. "To maintain a sensible and consistent scheme and to give effect to every provision.28 When read together with § 67-404 (partnership agreement controls except for limited exceptions) and § 67-433 (providing separate paths of dissolution or mandatory buyout), we conclude dissolution for a partner’s voluntary withdrawal under § 67-439(1) is a default rule. Section 67-439(1) applies only when the partnership agreement does not provide for the partnership business to continue. Moreover, the 1998 UPA specifically requires that we apply and construe the act “to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law with respect to the subject of the act among states enacting it. " "UPA ’s rule of mandatory dissolution upon a partner’s withdrawal is a default rule. It “applies only [absent] an agreement affording the other partners a right to continue the business.”Under the partnership agreement, Harley did not have the right to force the partnership’s dissolution when Don elected to continue the business. the partnership agreement to mandate a buyout of a withdrawing partner’s interest, but it failed to specify a remedy for the partnership’s failure to pay, or to timely pay, the buyout price. Therefore, because the agreement is silent on this point, the default rules of the 1998 UPA apply.Although Don failed to timely pay the buyout price, absent a remedy provision in the agreement, Harley’s remedy was statutory. H is statutory remedy against the partnership did not include dissolution, and he waived the remedy of judicial valuation. Therefore, section 12 of the agreement provided the method for determining his interest’s value."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Nebraska Supreme Court retains "reasonable suspicion" test and rejects Eighth Circuit's "de minimis" test for detaining suspects the police stop for traffic violations longer for conducting Illinois v Caballes drug dog sweeps, but if it wanted to make it stick it should have ruled on state law. State v. Louthan, S-07-593, 275 Neb. 101 Norfolk area police and state patrolmen stopped a driver whom they suspected of selling methamphetamine for expired plates and making an improper turn. After the police officer completed his traffic stop he requested the suspect remain to have a drug dog sniff the vehicle. After two sweeps the dog detected methamphetamine and the police found the narcotics in the defendant's wallet. The sniff, search and recovery of the drugs took an additional 12 minutes after the end of the traffic stop. Nebraska Supreme Court affirms search finding that the police had reasonable suspicion to detain the suspect beyond the time police needed to complete the traffic stop. a suspect for further drug dog surveillance after completing a traffic stop. While the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in similar cases allowed very brief "deminimis" detentions after completed traffic stops (See eg US v Alexander 05-3378 (2006) {four minutes was a de minimis detention}), the Nebraska Supreme Court holds that the United States Supreme Court ruling in Illinois v Caballes requires "reasonable suspicion" to detain suspects as soon as the traffic stop concludes. "there is a constitutionally significant line of demarcation between a routine traffic stop and one in which a dog sniff is conducted after the investigative procedures incident to the traffic stop have been completed.We agree that “the threshold questionis whether the officer had an appropriate basis upon which to detain the citizen” after concluding the routine traffic stop. We conclude that the “reasonable suspicion” test is the appropriate, necessary, and correct standard for resolving that question."
Wife who couldn't get her ex-husband to file correct QDROs for nearly six years gets the Nebraska Supreme Court on her side. Blaine v. Blaine, S-06-927, 275 Neb. 87 Wife and Husband divorced in October 1998 and the divorce court ordered the Husband to draft Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) for two qualified accounts and one individual retirement account to give half of the accounts to the wife as of February 3 1998. The husband did not finally accomplish completing the QDROs until 2006, six years later. The trial court and the lawyers must have assumed they could divide IRA accounts with a QDRO, a dangerous and mistaken assumption. See Qualified Domestic Relations Order HandbookBy Gary A. Shulman Section 21.01 and Bougas v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2003-194 In the meantime one of the 401k accounts had declined considerably in value. Some of the accounts had moved into other assets such as IRA. After the wife instituted contempt proceedings the husband prepared the QDROs and the judge awarded the wife have of the accounts current value. Nebraska Supreme Court, with Justice Stephan dissenting reverses and orders the trial court to direct the husband to issue correct QDROs or other orders to divide the retirement assets and finding a way to give the wife half the value of the assets as of February 1998. Blaine v. Blaine, S-06-927, 275 Neb. 87 "(The Nebraska Supreme Court) remands the cause with directions. Specifically, the district court is directed to (1) determine the value of each of the disputed accounts as of February 3, 1998, and (2) supervise the entry of QDRO’s transferring one-half of the February 3, 1998, value of each account to Stephanie. I f the balance of any of the accounts is insufficient to satisfy the award, then the district court, assisted by the parties, should determine how Dennis will comply with the decree. Justice Stephan dissenting argues the majority erred by equating ownership in the disputed retirement accounts with their value as of the target date of February 3 1998. "The majority would have the husband bear the risk of any decline in market value from target date until the entry of the QDRO, even if that entry were accomplished in a timely manner, and the wife would lose the benefit of any appreciation in the value of the assets during the same period. The decree does not direct this. Instead, the decree is entirely silent as to how market gains or losses occurring after the target date and prior to entry of the QDRO’s are to be treated by the parties in dividing the retirement plans “equally.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Initiative 300 vampire rises from the grave with LB 1174. Nebraska Unicameral. Senator Dierks introduced son-of Initiative 300, the family farm constitutional amendment with modifications to placate the eighth circuit court of appeals. The bill allows the disabled to participate in farm entities that are not corporations and allows out of state residents to participate as family farmers in this state.
Nebraska State Unicameral kills LB1148 that proposed banning confinement crates for gestating sows. Peripatetic Lincoln Senator Dianna Schimek found other priorities after introducing LB1148 that was former Mayor Don Wesley's and the Humane Society's brainchild. Sponsors of the withdrawn bill sought to phase out confinement pens for pregnant sows. Livestock producers consider it an economical practice that allows farmers to monitor food, water, health and pregnancies. "LB 1148 came to life after Kevin Fulton, a Litchfield farmer, made repeated calls to the Humane Society of the United States, prodding them to promote Nebraska legislation to phase out gestation crates as it had done in Oregon. The national organization hired Lincoln lobbyist Don Wesely, a former state senator and former Lincoln mayor, to find someone to introduce the proposal, which would have phased out gestation crates by 2014.Sen. Phil Erdman, chairman of the Legislature's Agriculture Committee, filed the kill motion against LB 1148. He said he was prepared to find 24 co-sponsors, had that been necessary.Hog operations are being bullied and targeted by the Humane Society of the United States, Erdman said. Fulton said the humane society was reluctant to tackle the issue in a major farm state.Fulton, who raises grass-fed cattle, is a public speaker who supports sustainable agriculture. The Humane Society of the United States has organized successful petition drives against gestation crates in Florida and Arizona, two states with minimal hog numbers.The society maintains that confinement, which restricts animals from turning around and socializing with other animals, is cruel and inhumane.Pressure from the society and the public has prompted some major food retailers, including Burger King, Wendy's and Hardees, to issue statements encouraging a phase-out of gestation crates. Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest hog producer, has said it would phase out the use of gestation crates. Advocates and some veterinarians, however, say confinement is preferable to group housing partly because it avoids the tendency of pregnant sows to become violent with one another. In a policy statement on hog confinement, the American Veterinary Medical Association says that all current forms of housing have advantages and disadvantages for animal welfare.The veterinary group recommends more research into technology and study of economical viability before ending current confinement practices.Smaller pork producers would be affected most if they were forced to change their method of handling sows, said Larry Sitzman, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. "The large producers have the resources and the ability to make major changes," Sitzman said, "whereas a family producer will just drop out of the marketplace."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Justice Connolly and his Gang of Six thought they had abolished the death penalty through the back door by banning Nebraska's electrocution method (State v. Mata, S05-1268). The Unicameral is unlikely to authorize lethal injection during Ernie Chambers' farewell session. So the Nebraska Supreme Court left Mata's death sentence in place without a means to carry it out. But does this mean the Supreme Court could or even should prescribe how to carry out the death penalty in a manner that complies with Nebraska Constitution Article I Section 9 (Nebraska version of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution). See Can Nebraska Restore Its Death Penalty Without Legislation?, Crime and Consequences Blog. The Supreme Court left 29-2528 in place, which requires the Supreme Court to reverse a death penalty case, grant a new trial, or set an execution date. The last iteration of STATE v. REEVES, S-99-064, 258 NEB. 51199-064 January 7, 2000 HTML] plainly shows the Supreme Court's unwillingness to re-sentence defendants. That leaves a death penalty without a method the legislature approved, but the law's requirement that the State of Nebraska can only prescribe the method of execution was part of the law the Supreme Court invalidated (25-2532 RRS Neb.). What is next if the Nebraska Supreme Court is serious about carrying out its proper function but immediate hearings to institute rules of executing death row inmates. Now that would be interesting, and if it refused would a writ of mandamus against the Supreme Court be far off?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Colorado executive of Con-Agra spin-off settles SEC complaint with a fine. A former executive at United Agri Products has agreed to settle allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission that he participated in improper accounting practices that also affected Omaha-based ConAgra Foods Inc., the SEC said. Randy Cook, former president of North American operations at Colorado-based UAP, did not admit or deny the allegations as he agreed to pay $367,429 in repayments and penalties, subject to court approval, the commission said Friday. The commission alleged that Cook and others participated in accounting practices that resulted in overstated operating results in 1999 and 2000, impacting UAP and its former parent company, ConAgra Foods. As a result, the SEC alleged, Cook obtained inflated bonus and other profit-based compensation.Other defendants previously agreed to settlements, the SEC said. Last year, ConAgra agreed without admitting or denying the allegations to pay a $45 million civil penalty to resolve an SEC complaint of improper and at times fraudulent accounting from fiscal years 1999 through part of 2005. That complaint included financial results of United Agri Products.
Follow up: Omaha area builder of luxury homes Gateway Builders files Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. Gateway Homes Inc. is seeking protection from creditors in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, after subcontractors filed at least 100 construction liens against the custom-home builder in the past month. Bob Ginn, Gateway's attorney, said Monday that the company has obtained the cooperation of its largest financing banks to complete and sell homes now under construction in order to maximize the return to all Gateway creditors. He plans to file motions seeking for that to happen, but a bankruptcy judge must approve the motions for construction to proceed. Gateway said in court papers that it owes a total of $3.28 million in unsecured claims to its 20 largest creditors. Court documents show Gateway's estimated assets are $0 to $10,000, but Ginn said that amount was mistakenly reported. "If that box was checked, it would be checked in error," Ginn said, "because the total assets would be in the $1 million to $10 million range." Ginn said Gateway's total inventory consists of eight custom homes under construction and 19 spec homes, which are homes without a specific buyer built on speculation that they will sell. Of the spec homes, some are completed and are models that prospective buyers can tour, while others were still under construction, Ginn said. Most are nearly finished, he said. Gateway owner Kevin Hebner declined to comment Monday and referred questions to Ginn. Gateway, a builder of mostly $250,000 to $400,000 custom homes, closed its doors two weeks ago and halted construction as subcontractors and suppliers filed dozens of liens. Construction liens are notices placed on public record of a debt due. Anyone who performs services or provides goods for improvements on real estate can file a lien within 120 days from the last date that services were performed or goods were provided. If a property has a lien, its sale cannot close unless a lien has been dealt with in some manner, ranging from lawsuits to foreclosures or payment. Chapter 11 allows a debtor to reorganize or liquidate according to a plan. "Filing bankruptcy allows us to sell the houses, and the creditors' interests are protected because their liens attach to the sale proceeds," Ginn said. "If we didn't file the bankruptcy, we couldn't sell the houses, because we would have to some way take care of those liens." Ginn said he would file a series of motions seeking authorization to complete and sell the homes under construction and formulating a method to assess the validity and amount of claims and liens. Ginn said he probably would file the motions this week. But it is highly unlikely a judge would enter his decision on the motions before a March 6 meeting of creditors at the Roman L. Hruska Courthouse in Omaha, Ginn said. There also are required waiting periods for objections. "We understand the urgency and will move forward as quickly as we can, but within those constraints," Ginn said. There could be more creditors than mentioned in the bankruptcy filing's "list of creditors holding the 20 largest unsecured claims." A dozen suppliers and subcontractors contacted before and after the filing declined to comment or did not return phone calls. The companies include lumber suppliers, plumbers, cabinet makers, carpet suppliers, concrete companies, brick suppliers, electricians, hardwood floor installers and insulation companies. The deadline to file a proof of claim is June 4.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Parties to a dispute over the Salem Grain Company won nearly $12000 attorneys' fees for the defendants' failure to comply with discovery orders. The appealing parties' appeal is dismissed as neither a final nor a collateral order. Frederick v. Seeba, A-06-272, 16 Neb. App. 373`an order imposing a money judgment for attorney fees and expenses for discovery violations pursuant to Nebraska’s discovery rule 37(a)(4) does not affect a “substantial right” as required by § 25-1902 RRS seek review of the appellant's discovery sanctions, they must meet three elements for their appeal to come within the collateral order doctrine: “[T]he order must conclusively determine the disputed question, resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action, and be effectively not reviewable on appeal from a final judgment.”Hallie Mgmt. Co. v. Perry, 272 Neb. at 85-86, 718 N.W.2d at 535 (quoting Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 98 S. Ct. 2454, 57 L. Ed. 2d 351 (1978)). the Seebas cannot meet the third condition of the collateral order doctrine, i.e., that the order is effectively not reviewable upon final judgment. Once a final determination of the merits of the case has been decided, theSeebas can appeal the imposition of attorney fees and expenses at that time, and if the appellate court determines that an error was made, the remedies available to theSeebas after appeal from a final judgment are sufficient to adequately protect their interests.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nebraska Court of Appeals in memorandum decision affirms alimony order for $2300 monthly for 20 months when Gage County District Court considered husband's personal draws from his business as income. The husband regularly drew $40 to $50K per year from his incorporated pallet business and counted the draws as a corporate loan that he would repay with bonus salary. The divorce court considered the draws as income when considering its $2300 monthly alimony award to the wife. Even if the court did not factor in these draws when calculating child support the Court of Appeals affirms the alimony award and this reasoning. the “loans” is how the couple handled their money during the marriage, and thus, it would be incongruous for the courts to ignore this additional stream of money which has provided for the parties’ lifestyle and expenses. Steve’s argument appears to be that because the “borrowing and bonus” methodology was not considered for child support purposes it cannot be considered for alimony purposes. No authority is cited for this notion, and while Lisa might have made the opposite argument on appeal for increased child support, she did not. This is not to suggest that such an argument would have been successful, but only that Steve’s argument in this regard ignores the aspects of the court’s treatment of the “borrowing and bonus evidence” that are favorable to him. Accordingly, after consideration of the entire record, we are unable to say that the trial court’s award of alimony is untenable and an abuse of discretion.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Nebraska Supreme Court announces simplified test to determine whether courts should consider parties business associations to be partnerships and holds that the standard would be a preponderance of the evidence whether in a dispute between business associates or between buseinss associates and outside parties. In re Dissolution & Winding Up of KeyTronics, S-06-690, 274 Neb. 936. The parties to the dispute worked together to market and operate automatic payment systems for automatic carwash stations. After the business failed one of the business associates sought an accounting and winding up of the operation claiming they had a partnership under Uniform P artnership A ct. S ection 67-410(1) RRS Neb. The district court denied the putative partners accounting complaint. Nebraska Supreme Court on denovo review of this equity action reverses, finding that the Plaintiff proved by a preponderance of the evidence that a partnership existed. Willson admits he is not pursuing an action for an accounting of a partnership that would be limited to the development of a key dispenser-revalue station. T hat product was never produced and did not independently garner any profits to account for. We are instead asked to determine whether K ing and Willson were partners in an enterprise that involved both the development of the key dispenser-revalue station and the sales and maintenance of the regular QuikPay line. If so, Wilson claims that K ing must account to Willson for any profits relating to all QuikPay business. The elements disputed by the parties are whether there was an “association” formed for QuikPay business, and whether such association, if created, was as “co-owners.” We have never explained, nor is there any reasoning to support, the confusing myriad of standards we have applied to what is, effectively, the same legal issue. T hus, we believe that the tenuous distinction between actions by alleged partners inter sese and actions by a third party against the alleged partnership should be abolished. By eliminating any common-law distinctions as to the burden of proof between actions alleging a partnership inter sese and actions by third parties, we bring greater predictability and consistency to partnership determinations. In our de novo review, we thus determine whether Willson established by a preponderance of the evidence that he and King were partners in a business that entailed both the development of the key dispenser-revalue station and regular QuikPay sales and maintenance We conclude that the objective, as well as subjective, indicia are sufficient to prove co-ownership of the business of selling,maintaining, and developing QuikPay. H aving already concluded that there was an association for the same, we conclude that Willson proved that he and K ing had formed a partnership for the business of selling, maintaining, and developing QuikPay.Because Willson has proved a partnership relationship with King, he is entitled to a winding up and an accounting in accordance with the A ct. T he district court erred in concluding otherwise. A ccordingly, we reverse the decision and remand the cause for further proceedings.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Omaha worker compensation insurer finds niche servicing small-town employers. The nation's most profitable commercial insurer, dollar for dollar, is located in Omaha, but it's not the widely known Berkshire Hathaway Inc. It's FirstComp Insurance Co., which is making a name for itself nationwide by selling only workers' compensation insurance and targeting small businesses and small towns. The company's high profits, accompanied by growth, are the result of what FirstComp executives say is dedication to giving small-town business owners and their insurance agents simple, hands-on service that's often lacking in the insurance world. The customers of small-town agents typically include close friends and relatives, FirstComp executives said. Agents don't want to have to apologize if an insurance adjuster is rude or late paying a claim, or if a customer must negotiate a voice-mail maze to get a question answered. "It has to do with making their lives easy" and giving personal, human service, said Bob Phaneuf, president of FirstComp's underwriting group. Voice mail? Outsourcing calls to foreigners? "It'll never happen here," he said. Now FirstComp is taking two steps designed to enhance its growth at home and in the southeastern United States. It will move into five newly renovated floors this month in downtown's Central Park Plaza at 15th and Douglas Streets, and it will open its fourth regional office, in Tampa, Fla. The changes come after National Underwriter, an insurance trade journal, ranked FirstComp's six-year average operating profit, in relation to its premiums, as No. 1 among 116 companies that write commercial property-casualty policies. FirstComp's profitability ranked third out of 219 property-casualty insurers in the country. The rankings don't include earnings from investments but rather reflect a ratio of claims, operating expenses and other costs compared with premium revenue. The lower the "combined ratio," the better the profit picture. FirstComp's combined ratio over the past six years averaged 82.3, which was two points lower than the second-place company. Some companies have ratios over 100 percent and stay in the black through earnings from their investments. FirstComp has investment earnings, too, but Phaneuf said it can be dangerous to expect investments -- which can be volatile -- to bail out operating losses year after year. FirstComp's premiums for 2007 increased 39 percent to $519 million. The company increased its customers from 60,000 businesses in 26 states about a year ago to 85,000 in 28 states today. This year, the company plans to add Alabama, Delaware and West Virginia. That growth has boosted employment from 516 to 615 in the past year, including 400 in Omaha. The total should reach 700 by the end of 2008. That's why the company is adding office space at Central Park Plaza, including the floor that once housed the headquarters of ConAgra Foods, said Chris Reichert, vice president of sales and marketing. FirstComp recruits heavily from the University of Nebraska in both Omaha and Lincoln and from Creighton University, seeking people with what Reichert called an Omaha-style blend of courtesy, articulateness, knowledge, competitiveness and a desire to help customers solve problems. A typical FirstComp customer has never had a workers' compensation claim, he said. The employee involved is likely to be a close friend and key staff member who has suffered an injury or illness that is causing severe personal and business problems. So the business manager who calls FirstComp may be nervous, upset and unfamiliar with the process of filing a claim. That's why FirstComp always answers customer service calls in person, 90 percent of the time by the second ring of the phone, Reichert said. "We sound like we care, because we do care," he said. FirstComp's underwriters, customer service operators and other staff members are motivated by knowing that they can help people in difficult times. FirstComp, from its founding in 1997, also has an advantage in its computer system, which the company developed on its own, Phaneuf said. He said it is fast, easy to use and dedicated to respecting agents' time demands by being efficient and helpful. The result is that the 7,500 local agents who sell FirstComp coverage may recommend its policies even when they cost slightly more, he said. Nearly all new business comes into the company via its Internet Web site, requiring minimal staff time. That's good because each policy sale is small, averaging a $5,000 premium per year. Often it is less than $2,000. Many of the businesses are so small that they haven't been able to get regular workers' compensation insurance and instead have paid for expensive coverage from state-sponsored insurance pools. Adding up all those tiny businesses, FirstComp now has about 1 percent of the nation's workers' compensation business. In states where it has operated for many years, its share can reach nearly 10 percent. That leaves plenty of room for growth, Phaneuf said, both in new states and within states where FirstComp already operates. There are no plans to branch into other types of insurance. "We stick to our knitting," he said.
Casey's General Store employees' lawsuit for unpaid overtime goes ahead. Convenience Store News. Casey's General Stores, operator of more than 1,460 convenience stores, faces a new federal lawsuit by its cooks and cashiers who claimed the company did not pay their overtime, The Associated Press reported. The c-store chain was already sued by managers who issued similar claims, the report stated. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Des Moines, alleges Casey's wrongfully denied overtime pay and wages to current and former Casey's hourly employees, the AP reported. Approximately 20,000 employees are included in the suit and claims exceed $5 million, according to court documents cited by the AP. "I was expected to and repeatedly did show up early and stay late for Casey's," former Iowa Casey's employee and plaintiff Connie Wineland said in a statement cited by the AP. "I want to be paid for all of the time I worked at Casey's." The employees are represented by the Peters Law Firm of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Washington-based Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca; Stephan Zouras, of Chicago; and Hudson Mallaney & Shindler, of Des Moines. "These are hardworking employees who deserve to be paid for every minute of time they work," attorney Scott Peters told the AP. "Employees should not be expected to 'donate' their time to Casey's." A telephone message by the AP left for a Casey's spokesman was not immediately returned. The company's attorney, Eli Wirtz, declined comment to the AP. In early June 2007, CSNews Online reported two former assistant managers for the Casey's convenience chain sued the company for failure to pay them overtime wages. At that time, the company issued a statement obtained by CSNews Online. It stated: "We understand a lawsuit was filed in Federal Court yesterday by two former employees in which the claim is made that Casey's failed to properly pay overtime compensation to two or more of its assistant managers. Casey's denies this claim and intends to vigorously defend itself with respect to this lawsuit. It is Casey's policy to pay all employees for any and all time worked in accordance with federal, state and local law."
Omaha are Jiffy Lube franchisee files Chapter 11. New Hampshire Business Review. Heartland Automotive Services Inc. of Omaha, Neb., owner of several Jiffy Lube locations around the country – including West Lebanon, N.H -- has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Heartland is the largest Jiffy Lube franchisee in the country, according to its Web site, and operates some 438 sites in 20 states across the country including the Boston area. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas on Jan. 7 in order to restructure its financial situation and resolve issues with its franchisor, Houston, Texas-based Jiffy Lube International. Ralph Tschantz, senior vice president of marketing for Heartland, said its stores, including the one in West Lebanon, will remain open during the proceedings. He also said he is not expecting a reduction in workforce. “Hopefully, consumers will notice no difference in service,” said Tschantz. “We also hope our employees will continue to have confidence in offering that service. It should be business as usual.” A man who answered the phone at the West Lebanon location but said he did not wish to be identified, confirmed that the site was operated by Heartland and was expecting to remain open during the reorganization. He also said he was not anticipating any layoffs, in fact, he said he needed to hire about five more employees to add to his current staff of 10. According to a statement on Heartland’s Web site, the company filed for Chapter 11 because of what it calls a “breakdown of negotiations with Jiffy Lube International to resolve long-simmering disputes regarding the companies’ relationship” over advertising and marketing, and support from the franchisor, product pricing from JLI’s parent, Shell Oil Co., and expansion strategies. Economic pressures in the volatile gas and oil market were also cited as reasons for the filing. Heartland said it anticipates going back to the negotiating table with JLI after the initial stabilization phase of its reorganization, which was to go heard in court on Jan. 23. If settlements still can’t be reached on the issue, Heartland said it will seek a rejection of its franchise agreements and rebrand the business. Heartland said in the statement that it had $8 million in cash on hand at the time of the filing. Representatives of JLI did not return phone calls by deadline.
Union Pacific Railroad to install track image records on trains to record accidents. Union Pacific Corp. is installing more than 1,600 track image recorders on locomotive cabs this year to record the track, crossings and signals in front of trains.The recordings will help with investigations after accidents. The nation's largest railroad began installing the cameras in 2005. By the end of this year, nearly 90 percent of the company's more than 6,000 over-the-road locomotives will have them. A small camera is mounted inside the locomotive's cab, providing the train crew's point of view. A microphone is placed outside to record the locomotive's air horn and bell. The video image disk can record up to five days of information. "This equipment is a valuable tool in assisting with the investigations of pedestrian or grade-crossing incidents," said Bob Grimaila, U.P.'s vice president of safety and environment. Union Pacific's rail network extends across 23 states.
Subcontractors file dozens of construction liens against Omaha area luxury homebuilder. Subcontractors such as electricians and plumbers have filed about 100 construction liens this month in Sarpy and Douglas Counties against Gateway Homes, a builder of mostly $250,000 to $400,000 custom homes in the Omaha metropolitan area.The number of liens — which is unusually high against a single builder in a short period — reflects not only one builder's struggles in a slow housing market but also the trickle-down impact on subcontractors.Gateway Homes has closed its doors, stopped construction and retained Bob Ginn, an attorney specializing in bankruptcy. Gateway owner Kevin Hebner referred questions to Ginn. Asked if the company was filing for bankruptcy, Ginn said, "At this juncture, all options are still on the table." Ginn said that because he was retained only Friday, he was still familiarizing himself with the case and could not comment further. Douglas County Register of Deeds Diane Battiato said the liens against Gateway started with three in December and then ballooned to 49, with claims of unpaid debts totaling $305,616 through Monday. Sarpy County Register of Deeds Lloyd Dowding said about 50 construction liens had been filed against Gateway through Monday. Construction liens are commonly used by subcontractors or suppliers to protect themselves, Dowding said. But to have that many filed against one company in a month's time is unusual, he said. "The last time we had a great influx of construction liens was with Benchmark Homes," Battiato said. Benchmark, once the Omaha area's third-largest home builder, collapsed in March 2006 after the founder's suicide prompted subcontractors and suppliers to file more than 2,000 liens. After Benchmark filed for bankruptcy, a judge authorized the sale of more than 100 completed and mostly completed homes. Gateway Homes, which is smaller than Benchmark, was issued 23 single-family building permits in 2007 and 32 in 2006, according to the Metro Omaha Builders Association. Lee Sharpe, Gateway's field operations manager, said Hebner's Jan. 22 announcement to employees that the company was closing came as a shock because of Hebner's repeated reassurances during the housing downturn that the company was fine. Sharpe said that even though he was surprised by the closing, the signs of the company's financial struggles started about a year ago, when some subcontractors were refusing to work for Gateway because of unpaid bills. Hebner at first appeared to take care of the problems, Sharpe said. But one contractor recently appeared at the office demanding to be paid. When he wasn't, he left and immediately filed liens, calling another subcontractor, Sharpe said. "It just snowballed," Hebner said. Matt Thomas, owner of the Tile Man, a Council Bluffs company, said it appeared that a meeting Hebner called with some subcontractors in late December might have sparked some of the liens. Hebner told subcontractors that he was trying to get them money, Thomas said. "If people would have just held out and let him do his thing, we all would have gotten paid," Thomas said. "But there were a few that just didn't understand it. . . . I figured with the market so bad, that I'm going to stick it out to the end, and he just might be able to make a comeback." Thomas, who has worked as a subcontractor for Gateway for eight years, continued working on a job for Hebner until hearing of Hebner's Jan. 22 meeting with employees. "Through the grapevine, I hear that he's locked his doors. That pretty much triggered that it's over, it's done. I said, 'Pack up your tools and go, it's over,'" Thomas said. "There's no reason to go forward with your work if you know you're not going to get paid." Thomas said he filed liens against Gateway Homes on Jan. 23 and 24. Thomas said his paychecks were delayed in the past, but he didn't file liens then because he needed the work. "He gives you work, so you give him the benefit of the doubt," Thomas said. "And then it got later and later." He said he was supposed to be paid every 30 days, but he received his last payment Nov. 24. "He's a good guy, he means well, but it all caught up with him," Thomas said of Hebner.