A newly-opened Colfax nonprofit is being evicted from its Dunn County location after its landlord said the company made alterations to the building that weren’t allowed in the lease, then refused to leave the building.
Three former employees also said Wednesday that the nonprofit did not pay them wages they were promised.
A Dunn County court commissioner Wednesday ordered the OCD Foundation to vacate the University Avenue building by March 23.
The OCD Foundation, or Our Communities Deliver, opened as a nonprofit in December at 1101 University Ave., Colfax. It directs resources to the homeless, hungry and unemployed, chairman Travis Moessner said Wednesday.
The nonprofit leased a former nursing home building from the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center on Oct. 29.
Moessner, who signed the lease, violated the agreement by making changes to the building, failing to pay utilities and allowing people to live at the building, according to the eviction complaint.
“They had removed a substantial number of interior walls, and that was obviously done without my client’s consent,” said Tanya Bruder, attorney for Colfax Health and Rehabilitation.
The renovations were done without a proper building permit from the village of Colfax and were “fairly extensive,” Bruder said Wednesday.
The landlord believes the building contains asbestos, Bruder also said: “The concern we have is that proper containment and remediation measures were not employed, and obviously that creates a health and safety concern.”
Moessner said he did not read the signed copy of the lease. He said an initial draft of the lease would have allowed the OCD Foundation to alter the building.
“Our foundation wouldn’t have moved there in the first place if we weren’t able to make the renovations necessary to help people,” Moessner said. “I felt like I had verbal approval, because we had gone over that prior to the lease.”
According to the lease: The OCD Foundation would pay utility costs from December 2018 to November 2019. It would then pay $1,500 per month starting in November 2019. That amount would increase to $2,500 per month from November 2020 to October 2023.
Bruder said Wednesday afternoon she was pleased with the commissioner’s decision to grant the eviction.
“As soon as we’ve got access to the building, we’ll have to go in, see what type of damage there is and see what needs to be done with issues relating to asbestos,” Bruder said.
Accusation: Unpaid wages
Several former OCD Foundation employees approached the landlord and said the OCD Foundation had not paid them, Bruder said at the hearing.
Several former employees attended the Wednesday hearing. Three said they left the nonprofit after they were not paid wages they were promised.
Candy Thaler, Miranda Montonya and Tammy Franck were hired in December. Montonya, hired as a contact director, and Thaler, hired as a human resources director left in late January, they said. Franck, hired as an executive assistant, left the company Feb. 6, she said.
All three said they were hired as paid employees, but never received payment.
Moessner said Wednesday he and the employees “did not leave on bad terms.” He said he told each employee they would be paid once the nonprofit was funded with grants within three to four months, and that “within six months there (would be) stability.”
Thaler and Franck disagreed.
“Nobody was hired under the assumption there was no money. He was always telling us we were going to get paid, and it just never came through,” Thaler said.
“He never said that ... there was no funding when I was hired,” Franck said.
Moessner said he is looking for a new location for the nonprofit, possibly in Menomonie or Eau Claire.
“Today’s ruling is not going to shut us down whatsoever,” he said.
Moessner founded the nonprofit in April 2017, he said. The Colfax location was originally planned to host a retail store, cafe and a call center in addition to the foundation’s corporate office.