(Editor's note: This column is updated from its original posting to include the identity and Tribune connection of the story's subject.)
A Salt Lake City man who used to work summers at a landscaping company to put himself through college has learned the hard way that it is better to rely on yourself than government bureaucrats to get something done.
The landscaping company went out of business in 2007 and his last paycheck bounced.
The employee, Cimaron Neugebauer, who now is a Salt Lake Tribune staff writer, filed a complaint with the Utah Labor Commission. The commission worked with the State Office of Debt Collections to get his hard-earned money from the company's owner, who became adept at avoiding collection notices.
But while Neugebauer spent five years communicating with the government offices that are supposed to know how to track down deadbeats, it turns out the bureaucrats had to rely on him rather than the other way around.
Here is a sampling of their correspondence:
After two years of getting nowhere, our stiffed employee, on his own, found the employer had worked at Lowe's but had since left so they couldn't garnish his wages.
The Debt Collection Office thanked him for the update.
Then, from our stiffed employee, who learned his former boss was working as a model, "I am trying to figure out if he has any work with the talent company he is modeling for … I hear from a friend who is an actress, if they work for a talent company, their wages can be garnished through that company.
"He would be considered self-employed, but also would be receiving payment for modeling jobs from his talent agency. Here is the website with his info …"
Neugebauer also found the number for his former boss's brother, which he passed on to the Office of Debt Collections.
He was thanked, then heard no more.
Then he found some more information. "According to court documents, on Dec. 4, 2009, [a private collection agency] mailed to have [the employer] pay a debt, and he paid them. The address they had on file is …"
"Thank you for the update," the state office responded. "I have passed the information on to the collection agency we are using."
This went on for three more years, with our stiffed employee doing all the legwork. Finally, this month, thanks to his own efforts, the employer was tracked down, had wages garnished and finally paid the money he owed.
Wonder if our guy gets a tax deduction for doing the state's work?
More government at work • Joe Gillies, a waiter in Salt Lake City, needed some court documents from the Tooele court to complete his application for a license related to his work. His mother lives near the court in Stansbury Park and agreed to pick up the documents for him.
But when she got to the court on a recent Friday at about 3 p.m., the offices were closed, despite the posted closing time of 4:30 p.m.
She mentioned the frustration to her neighbor, who is a bailiff, and he responded: "Well, it's Friday. You know how it is on Fridays."
Church and state • The State Department of Workforce Services recently listed a job opening at a commercial carpet cleaning company.
One of the requirements posted on the state site was that the applicant must have an LDS Church temple recommend.
One job hunter who wondered about the state posting such a requirement was told that part of the company's responsibilities is to clean carpets at LDS temples. Hence the recommend.