Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Local News

August 28, 2013

LMC wages on the way?

Agency tells former employees back pay can be paid soon

Jacksonville, Texas — JACKSONVILLE — Several of the former Lon Morris College employees who weren't paid when the school went under in July, 2012 might recover lost wages as early as Aug. 30, a representative of the liquidated institution has announced.

In a formal statement, LMC Plan Agent Dawn Ragan said the U.S. bankruptcy court overseeing the case has approved settlement agreements between Lon Morris and “certain foundations” that are needed to finance the final employee checks.

“The foundations need to wait an additional 14 days for certain objection and appeal periods to run,” Ragan said in the announcement. “No objections are expected during the appeal period however, so payments should go out on or before August 30.”

Ragan did not immediately respond to a request for further comment from a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter. But in her original announcement, she also asked anyone with questions or need to reconfirm their distribution information to contact her at dragan@bridgepointconsulting.com.

LMC's formal liquidation plan, which included the bulk of the LMC estate, was approved in February by Federal Judge Bill Parker of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Texas. But nothing was included addressing payment for the employees.

At the time, Ragan said she was working to determine how much is still owed these employees. And LMC employees reported receiving various counter-offers for amounts that are much, much less than what is actually due them.

At least one former employee recalled that back in December these LMC employees were offered a “convenience claim” option on the same form containing the ballot to either accept or reject the proposed bankruptcy plan. 

Not many people accepted, but a few did and have since been paid, reports show.

Craig Lee, a former LMC employee who currently is a member of the Theatre Department at Trinity Valley Community College,  said his pay issues with the estate have been resolved.

“It wasn't the outcome I had hoped for, but it is resolved,” Lee said. “The 'Agreement Letter' — the contract that faculty signed — had enough conditions that they were allowed to compensate outstanding wages up to the termination date, but not beyond.”

Lee said he also conferred with a former employee who was “let go” the year before the college closed about  LMC's arraignment regarding paying out a contract and concluded that it was not their practice to pay full contracts of terminated employees.

“So, I decided there was very little chance of receiving all of my earnings,” he said. “But I gave it a try.”

Ragan, meanwhile has continually blamed Texas Attorney General's office for the payment delay. Thomas Kelley, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, has repeatedly denied his office had anything to do with any part of this process.

“Our attorneys were fully aware of the plans for funding the payments to former employees, and had no objection to using the funds from the charitable foundations for making these  payments,” Kelley said. “It was and is the Plan Agent's responsibility to make sure the payments are made.”

Michelle Zenor, a former associate professor of English at LMC, said she has recently received paperwork from the court with a specific amount that was approved by the judge, but other than the notice on the website, no additional information. 

“I know that many former employees are hoping that the wages we are owed will be paid this week,” she said.

Jason Thomas, a former Lon Morris College athletic trainer, said he hopes to conclude this financial issue as soon as possible.

“From my understanding there has been some arrangement,” Thomas said. “I have not yet received this money, but if and when I do, it will be a long time coming. It will hopefully help me to catch up the rest of my bills. Losing three to four paychecks does some damage. So it would be wonderful to finally get everything caught back up.”

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