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2014-03-06

Man sues former TV company

By Sean Batura, Staff Writer, KDT

By Sean Batura,
Staff Writer, KDT
Originally printed in Kerrville Daily Times Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014
Reprinted with permission

A Kerr County man is suing a local businessman over allegations of unpaid wages, following a federal court ruling last month that held the business failed to pay two other employees.
Kenneth Woods, a former employee of Star Dreamz Communications, the company associated with a defunct TV station formerly located inside the Big Texas Inn, seeks attorney's fees and $4,261 in alleged unpaid overtime and minimum wages.
According to a complaint filed Tuesday in the Kerr County Court at Law, Woods is suing both the production company and Jerry Reed, president of Star Dreamz Communications.
Reed also represents the company that owns the Big Texas Inn, where the TV station had an office and production facility.
Reed was ordered last month by a federal jury to pay two former employees tens of thousands in attorney's fees, unpaid overtime and minimum wages. In that case, Reed was accused of taking advantage of desperate people by offering them rooms and food allowances at the Big Texas Inn to supplement low wages.
According to allegations filed by local attorney Richard Ellison, who represents Woods and previously represented other former employees, Woods worked an average of 65 hours a week for three to four weeks in the summer of 2012, distributing promotional flyers for the TV station and designing and building a recording studio in the Big Texas Inn. In addition to unpaid wages, Woods seeks attorney's fees and monetary and punitive damages.
On Tuesday, Reed said Woods' claims were "outrageous" and said if the man only had asked for a couple hundred bucks, he would have given him a check. Woods was paid for some carpentry services, Reed said.
Stephen Harpold, who represents Reed, said Woods committed fraud by lying on his employment application. "This is a case where a guy with a felony kidnapping conviction comes to interview for a sales job, doesn't disclose (his conviction), and then does not come back to work in a proper fashion," Harpold said. "It is what it is."
Woods' case was refiled in county court at law this week after being dismissed on Tuesday in the court of Justice of the Peace David Billeiter. The judge dismissed the case, because the damages sought exceeded the court's jurisdiction of $10,000.
Federal case against station, hotel
In the federal case disposed last month, Ellison won damages for former employees John Keeney and Melissa Morris.
Keeney managed the bar and restaurant at Big Texas Inn and worked in sales for KVHC TV in 2012. According to court documents, Reed promised to pay Keeney $150 a week, plus room and board and promised to pay the lien on his truck.
"Instead of keeping that promise, Reed falsely accused him of having drug paraphernalia in his room, fired him and called the lien holder to come get the truck," contended a complaint filed in federal court. "Reed then charged him rent for two days after he evicted him."
Morris was a server at the hotel's restaurant and bar and worked at a cash register. Her employment contract obligated the hotel to $425 per week in food allowances, tips and wages in the first two weeks of her employment in 2012 and $350 per week thereafter, according to the complaint, which also contended Morris worked off the clock, conducted company business in her personal vehicle and worked more than 40 hours per week. Reed failed to provide Morris a room as promised and failed to pay her and Keeney the minimum wage and overtime, alleges the complaint.
The federal jury ordered Reed to pay Keeney $1,299 for minimum wages, $1,615 for overtime wages and $2,913.92 for liquidated damages.
The jury awarded Morris $1,159 for minimum wages, $1,098 for overtime wages and $2,257 for liquidated damages. The jury also ordered Reed to pay $36,080 in attorney fees.
Reed ran the Old Texas Square Hotel in Bandera, which burned down in 2012. However, its website, texassquare.com, existed as of this week and listed the hotel's phone number as 896-1711, which is the Big Texas Inn's phone number.
Those who call the number have been advised of the Bandera hotel's demise and then offered lodging at the Kerrville Inn as a substitute.
Doyle Weaver, a local attorney who currently is seeking transfer of the FCC license associated with Star Dreamz, purchased the company's assets from the bank that foreclosed on the station. Weaver said Wednesday that, pending licensing, he intends to open a new local station.