Insurance commissioner to shut down late payers: Ingersoll-Rand among 97 businesses

By Steve Korris | Jan 12, 2006

Jane Cline

CHARLESTON – Ingersoll-Rand of Montvale, N.J., takes in about $10 billion a year in revenue, but it could forfeit the privilege of doing business in West Virginia over an alleged debt of about $10,000.

Insurance commissioner Jane Cline has asked Kanawha County Circuit Court to enjoin Ingersoll-Rand from doing business in the state because it owes at least $9,874.76 to the West Virginia Workers Compensation Commission.

The commission shut down Dec. 31, but that did not grant a free pass to employers who defaulted on its premiums. In fact, the troubles of those employers have increased.

Because of their defaults, these employers do not qualify for workers compensation coverage through Brick Street, a private company that the legislature created with a 30-month monopoly on workers comp in West Virginia.

With nowhere else to turn for coverage, owners and officers of these businesses have assumed personal responsibility for injuries to their workers.

That won't matter for long if Cline has her way.

In December, attorney David Ansell of Cline's revenue recovery unit petitioned the Kanawha County court to enjoin 97 employers from doing business in the state until they report all wages and pay what they owe.

Cline's head legal counsel, Mary Jane Pickens, said in a Jan. 11 interview that Cline soon would send another batch of petitions to the county courthouse.

In the December group, Ingersoll-Rand stands out as the only industrial giant. Ingersoll-Rand makes air compressors and equipment for mining and construction. It employs about 46,000 persons.

The company did not default through some last minute oversight. According to the petition, Ingersoll-Rand received a default notice in 2001, three in 2002, two in 2003, two in 2004, and two last year.

Ingersoll-Rand allegedly failed to pay its last three quarterly premiums on time, failed to file its last three payroll reports on time, and failed to pay penalties and interest.

Ansell wrote that Ingersoll-Rand's conduct continues to cause irreparable harm to the state. All the petitions that the West Virginia Record reviewed made that charge.

The Record reviewed 61 petitions in the circuit clerk's office. Judges had taken the other 36 to their chambers.

The biggest default in the public files belongs to Midnight Express, of Parkersburg. The business and its "responsible person," Frank Gallo, allegedly owe at least $119, 157.58.

According to the petition, Midnight Express never filed a quarterly payroll report on time. Thirteen payroll reports remain outstanding, according to the petition.

Two petitions in the chambers of Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr., may show even bigger defaults. The petitions aim at Recmediation of Toms River, N.J., and Pro Careers, of Charleston.

A Dec. 7 report of the Workers Compensation Commission showed that Pro Careers owed $377,816.62, and Recmediation owed $216,243.07.

A petition against Safeco Environmental and responsible person Jennifer Jordan, of Point Marion, Pa., shows that in nine months of West Virginia operation the business built up an alleged default of at least $75,113.95.

Smitty's Hardware of Montgomery, on the other hand, kept a clean record from 1969 to 2002 before sliding into default. The petition alleges that Smitty's and responsible person Stanford Goldsmith owe at least $2,055.78.

Two petitions aim at the same person, Steven Thacker of Buckhannon. His Hi-Tech Auto and Tire allegedly owes at least $4,705.35. His Pro Lube and Exhaust, jointly owned by Joyce Harris, allegedly owes at least $7,374.08.

The worst example of payroll reporting somehow matches up with one of the tiniest defaults. Almost Heaven Pet Styling and responsible persons Holly and Allen Stribling, of Charleston, allegedly missed 40 reporting deadlines. They allegedly owe $534.12.

Some petitions accuse employers of voiding earlier agreements that reinstated them to good standing at the Workers Compensation Commission.

Glen's Towing and Road Service and responsible person Jim Williams, of Beaver, voided three reinstatement agreements, according to a petition that alleges a default of at least $13,183.92.

Some petitions demand payment not only of the amounts in default but also of costs, fees and attorney fees up to 20 percent of the amounts in default.

In filing petitions by dozens, Cline's staff committed dozens of errors. Random letters and numbers jump out from the text.

In the middle of a petition against Shepherdstown Hauling, the name changes to Brown's Golf, an employer facing an injunction in a different petition.

A petition against Praise Construction, of Logan, offers three different numbers for the default amount. For that reason the accompanying table in this story omits Praise Construction.

In all but two cases, responsible persons received copies of petitions by mail.

A petition against G.G.G. Inc., and responsible person Mitchell Davis, of Bluefield, came back to the courthouse stamped "return to sender." So did a petition against Southeastern Construction and responsible person Edward Martin, of Huntington.

The 97 petitions have been assigned among Kanawha County judges.

Hearings on petitions are scheduled Jan. 24 and 27. More hearings are set in February and March.

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