Utah seizes money from the wrong guy in wage-claim dispute
SALT LAKE CITY —
At his plumbing supply business, Wesley Fisher employs plumbers, not painters. so imagine his surprise when he learned the state of Utah was seizing $3900 from his bank account to pay a painter that he has supposedly stiffed on his wages.
According to a wage-claim form filed with the state's labor commission, a guy named Tyler says he wasn't paid for work done at a business called Fisher's Paint Booth. The owner of that company has a similar name to Wesley - West Fisher, according to the form.
It seemed like an honest mistake, one that Wesley thought would be easily rectified. He thought wrong.
The state of Utah is refusing to relent, now taking Wesley to court for the money that has been frozen in his account.
"I can't seem to get any good straight answers," Wesley said. "It shouldn't happen to anybody"
Wesley decided to Get Gephardt and we took his complaint to the state office of debt collection to see if we could help straighten it out. Administrative services deputy director Marilee Richins said we were being led astray by Wesley. She says he, indeed, owes Tyler the money.
"We believe we have the right man," she said. "We would not move forward if we were not sure we had the right person."
The state is confident, in part, because they emailed Tyler a picture of Wesley that they got from the DMV. Tyler responded, "I confirm this is the guy of whom I was employed with."
It’s a confidence that would soon be shattered.
Wesley didn't let it go. Instead, he made the state take him to court for the money. Get Gephardt producer Cindy St. Clair was in the court room when a state lawyer walked into court with Tyler. St. Clair says the lawyer, Wesley and Tyler spoke in hushed tones then left the court room and went in to a conference room. When the three emerged, the state’s attorney told the court that they were releasing the garnishment.
Tyler apparently confirmed what Wesley had been trying to get the state to hear all along: they had the wrong guy.
Back on capitol hill, a Richens says the state is unfreezing Wesley’s money and are also covering all of his legal expenses.
With that, the long, frustrating injustice is finally fixed -- but could this happen again?
When asked if the state has the proper procedures in place to make sure they are getting the right person, Richins responded, “I can honestly tell you, we're not going to make any changes."
Get Gephardt was able to reach West Fisher, the former owner of Fisher’s Paint Booth by dialing the number listed by Tyler on the wage-claims form. West says he doesn't believe he owes the money to Tyler and he plans to call the state to get to the bottom of it.
He claims the state did not call him.