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Former AB&C employees could get partial payment of wages

Company turns over two boxes of paychecks to 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh

Company turns over two boxes of paychecks to 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh

April 04, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Former employees of AB&C Group Inc., who were laid off last month, could receive some of the wages they are owed as early as next week, attorneys said Friday during a court hearing.

Two boxes of paychecks for workers laid off March 14, the day they were to be paid, were turned over Friday to an attorney appointed by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh to marshal the custody of company assets seized by a court order signed Monday.

Before distributing the March 9 payroll checks, attorney Carmela Cesare, the court-appointed receiver, is expected to verify that the checks can be cashed and photocopy them for the benefit of two civil lawsuits filed against the company since it shut down.

In a letter to Judge Groh requesting the hearing, attorney Michael Scales said he was representing Robert Pulciani, who has been previously identified in pending civil litigation as the CEO of BlueSky Brands Inc., which has owned AB&C Group.

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"Defendant Pulciani believes ... that those checks have been made good by the bank and may be cashed," Scales said in his emergency motion filed with Jefferson County Circuit Court.

In his letter to Groh, Scales acknowledged the paychecks only were part of the payroll money owed to the employees.

On Friday, Scales said he wanted the record to reflect that the checks were turned over to the court.

"All of the checks are here ... and out of the buildings," Scales said.

The hearing held at the Berkeley County Judicial Center came a few hours after employees were allowed to retrieve their belongings from the Martinsburg facility off GM Access Road with the assistance of Cesare, two Berkeley County Sheriff's Department deputies and owners of The Shockey Companies, which own the building, State Sen. John Unger said.

"It's really a shame how they've been treated," said Unger, D-Berkeley.

Unger announced Friday that about $100,000 had been obtained from WorkForce West Virginia to provide the affected employees with training grants. A job fair was held earlier this week and Unger said several of the workers were getting interviews for new jobs.

"My whole focus has been trying to get them assistance," Unger said.

Attorney David Hammer, one of four attorneys involved in litigation filed against the company, said the possible disbursement of payroll money was "one baby step forward" in the effort to get employees what they are owed.

"The final week of work still is not paid," said Hammer, who reiterated concerns about wage garnishments, including taxes and health care charges, withheld in the weeks leading up to the company's abrupt closure.

Attorney Paul G. Taylor, who filed one of two civil actions in Jefferson County Circuit Court on behalf of four employees, told the court that he didn't object to the Martinsburg facility being shown to potential investors, but argued for the cataloging of assets and preservation of evidence, including computers left in the building.

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