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A Gordy's Market store in downtown Chippewa Falls is pictured in this Wednesday, Nov. 29 file photo.

Gordy's seeks dismissal of $46M lawsuit

Gordy’s Market Inc. wants a $46.2 million lawsuit filed by food distributor Nash Finch dismissed, and if it is not, the grocery chain seeks a jury trial.

“Gordy’s Market Inc. demands judgment dismissing plaintiff Nash Finch Company’s complaint against Gordy’s Market Inc., for its costs and disbursements according to law, and for any such further relief the court may deem just and equitable,” the company said in a 10-page court document responding to the lawsuit.

In the written response filed Thursday, Gordy’s contends that Nash Finch has “failed to state claims upon which relief can be granted,” and they have “failed to mitigate its damages.”

Who are Chippewa County's top 10 property taxpayers? Here's the list

In the Nash Finch lawsuit, the food distributor claims that Gordy’s owes $43.2 million in a rebateable incentive, a $1 million note, and $1.9 million in accounts receivable. In Gordy’s response letter, it states “GMI lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations ... and therefore neither admits nor denies them.”

In the Nash Finch lawsuit, the food distributor claims that Gordy’s is on the verge of insolvency. Gordy’s did not address that issue in its response.

Gordy’s is represented by Milwaukee-based attorney Timothy Hansen. Milwaukee attorney Michael Polsky, who was appointed as receiver, has not “provided any direction” to Hansen on how to proceed forward, the response states.

“GMI files this responsive pleading to avoid the risk of default judgment entered against GMI if it fails to respond within the deadline prescribed by statute,” the response reads.

Polsky has set a deadline of April 24 for any creditors of Gordy’s to enter claims with the court if they seek to participate in any dividends.

William Jacobs, Nash Finch vice president of treasury and corporate development, submitted an affidavit along with the lawsuit, writing that Gordy’s is in default under the terms of the “customer supply agreement” from November 2017.

“GMI is unable to pay plaintiff timely since late August 2018,” Jacobs wrote. “GMI’s delinquent balance with plaintiff has grown considerably in the last few weeks.”

A review of Gordy’s finances indicates the company “has no excess cash to get caught up on its delinquent balance,” Jacobs wrote.

The lawsuit states that Gordy’s promised to pay the principal sum of $1 million, together with interest on the principal balance. As collateral, GMI included “equipment, fixtures, inventory, investment property” and included liquor, wine and beer licenses, the lawsuit states. Gordy’s assumed leases of six stores from Nash Finch, with collateral assigned to each of the six locations.

“As a result of these defaults, (Nash Finch) accelerated the maturity of the note so that all amounts there under were immediately due and payable as of Dec. 27, 2018,” the lawsuit states.

No future court dates have been set. The case is being handled by Judge James Isaacson, who oversaw the last lawsuit filed against Gordy’s.

In August 2017, Nash Finch filed an $86 million lawsuit against the grocery chain. By Dec. 7, 2017, 1,400 separate creditors filed proof of claims totaling an additional $50.7 million and Settlers Bank filed a claim of $5 million.

By the end of the year, 20 of the 26 Gordy’s Market locations had either been sold or closed, leaving just six in the company’s portfolio: Chippewa Falls downtown, Chippewa Falls on Lake Wissota, Cornell, Ladysmith, Chetek and Barron. The Eau Claire store was later added.

Jeff Schafer, who returned to the company in March 2017 after a half-year sabbatical, is now leading the new, smaller team. Joining him are his brother, Dan Schafer, as head of finances, and Jeff’s son, Nick, as head of merchandising.

The Schafers acquired the six stores in December 2017 through an auction and working out an agreement with SpartanNash, the new corporate name of Nash Finch.

SpartanNash was the highest bidder, buying the six stores at the auction for $19.8 million. The food distributor then agreed to assign its interest in the purchase to Gordy’s. This agreement allows the Schafers to retain ownership of the six stores and keep 340 employees on the payroll.

Some of the other 20 stores, like in Stanley, were never sold. Others, like Chippewa Falls south and Rice Lake, remain shuttered and aren’t reopening as grocery stores.

Who are Chippewa County's top 10 property taxpayers? Here's the list
Who are Chippewa County's top 10 property taxpayers? Here's the list

Foxconn again shifts Wisconsin plan after Trump intervenes

MADISON, Wis. — Foxconn Technology Group has shifted its stated strategy yet again on Friday for a massive Wisconsin campus, crediting a conversation with President Donald Trump for cementing plans to proceed with building a factory to make high-tech liquid display screens.

The news capped a week of confusion about Foxconn’s plans in Wisconsin. The company announced in 2017, to much fanfare, that it planned to invest $10 billion in the state and hire 13,000 people to build an LCD factory that could make screens for televisions and a variety of other devices.

The company last year said it was reducing the scale of what was to be made in Wisconsin, from what is known as a Gen 10 factory to Gen 6. But this week, even that was thrown into question with Foxconn executive Louis Woo said it couldn’t compete in the television screen market and would not be making LCD panels in Wisconsin.

But on Friday, in yet another twist, Foxconn said after discussions with the White House and a personal conversation between Trump and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, it plans to proceed with the smaller manufacturing facility.

“Great news on Foxconn in Wisconsin after my conversation with Terry Gou!” Trump tweeted.

Wisconsin’s new Democratic governor criticized the company Friday for its flip-flopping.

“There’s no limit, frankly, to skepticism if the messaging isn’t coherent,” Evers told reporters. “I’m comfortable that they’re still committed to the state. They’re committed to this Generation 6 technology, but that doesn’t mean that we (won’t) encourage them to be more transparent and consistent in their messaging.”

The latest Foxconn statement did not say whether the commitment to this size factory would affect the type of workers who would be employed in Wisconsin. Foxconn executive Louis Woo told Reuters earlier this week that about three-quarters of workers in Wisconsin would be in research and development-type jobs, not manufacturing. Woo said the Wisconsin project would be more of a research hub, rather than having a manufacturing focus.

A Foxconn spokeswoman had no immediate comment about what its plans to build the “Gen 6” factory would mean for the makeup of the workforce. The difference between a “Gen 10” and “Gen 6” plant rests with the size of the original glass used to make the screens. The larger plant, which had been part of Foxconn’s initial plans, would have used glass more than three-times as large as what the smaller facility will use. The “Gen 6” plant can make screens ranging in size from a smart phone to a 75-inch television, while the larger plant would have allowed for devices as large as 9½ feet by 11 feet.

The “Gen 6” plant is expected to be smaller in size and less expensive than a “Gen 10” factory, but Foxconn has not specified just how large it will be.

Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics company, said Friday the campus will house both an advanced manufacturing facility and a center of “technology innovation for the region.”

Local Wisconsin government and economic development officials where the Foxconn campus is located praised the news, saying construction of the “Gen 6” factory will coincide with construction of other related buildings over the next 18 months.

Wisconsin promised nearly $4 billion in state and local tax incentives to Foxconn if it invested $10 billion and created 13,000 jobs for the project, which Trump heralded last year as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

But Foxconn has repeatedly revised its plans for what will be made in Wisconsin and who will work there, causing confusion in the state and leading critics of the project this week to accuse Foxconn of a “bait and switch.”

The original deal was struck by then-Gov. Scott Walker and Trump. Evers, Wisconsin’s current governor who used Walker’s support for Foxconn against him in the race, was a critic of the project during the campaign but has said this week he’s working closely with Foxconn on the project.

Foxconn earlier this week cited a changing global market as requiring a move away from making LCD panels in Wisconsin. Apple is Foxconn’s main manufacturing customer and it has forecast a drop in revenue from the Chinese market due to decreasing demand for iPhones.

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Chippewa County clerk of court denies grievance over firing

Chippewa County clerk of court Karen Hepfler has rejected a grievance claim by former employee Nate Liedl, who was fired Jan. 10.


Liedl, 37, worked in the clerk of courts office for nearly six years. He ran against Hepfler for the clerk of courts position in the November election. He submitted a grievance letter to the county a week his firing, contending he was dismissed because he ran against his boss in the election.

Hepfler sent a letter to Liedl this week, denying the claim. She doesn’t address Liedl’s allegation of why he was dismissed.

“I have reviewed the grievance,” Hepfler wrote in the one-page letter. “Pursuant to the grievance policy, the grievance is hereby denied.”

Liedl said he is still considering filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against the county. He said he will be contacting human resources director Toni Hohlsfelder to request a hearing to appeal the termination.

The county’s attorney, Jim Sherman, said Thursday that the county cannot comment on any ongoing grievance issues.

Liedl said he sent the grievance letter to the County Board chairman and vice-chair, and neither has responded to him.

Hepfler, 55, has served as clerk of court since 2001. Along with dismissing Liedl, Hepfler also recently fired two other workers in her office, including a woman who actively campaigned for Liedl on social media and at parades throughout last summer.

Liedl said he decided last spring to run for the elected position to lead the office, and he began collecting signatures. Shortly after filing, he was giving a warning about his job performance; he had never had any form of discipline in his first five years there.

Hepfler, a Democrat, received 14,450 votes (53 percent) to win re-election on Nov. 6. Liedl, who ran as a Republican, received 12,622 votes (47 percent).

Prior to being fired Jan. 10, Liedl was told that “transaction report” for 2018 that monitored his computer activity showed he had accessed juvenile department cases 18 separate times. Liedl readily admits he had read the cases, but didn’t know it was something he couldn’t do, or would be considered a fireable offense.

“We knew things were confidential, but we didn’t know we couldn’t access them,” Liedl said previously. “We knew we couldn’t talk about it.”

Liedl said this rule should have been explained better during his training. The fact that he did it 18 times over the course of the year shows he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong, he contends.

The woman who assisted Liedl during the campaign was terminated Dec. 6. She declined to comment, and asked that she not be identified because she didn’t want to lose her severance package. She worked in the office for about seven years.

“I believe the discharge of two employees who worked on a campaign against Ms. Hepfler within two months of her being re-elected shows these were instances of vindictive targeting,” Liedl wrote in his grievance letter.

Liedl’s six-month son, Jaxon Hunter, died Nov. 1, after he was reportedly stomped on by a 10-year-old Chippewa Falls girl. Liedl maintains that he did not look at the girl’s file or anything related to that case.

Liedl contends that other workers in the office — both former employees and current staff — have confided to him they have looked at similar confidential records. He didn’t want to divulge any names to not get anyone else in the office in trouble.

Police: Chippewa Falls man threatened to kill girlfriend, children and family dog

A Chippewa Falls man has been charged after he allegedly beat up his girlfriend Tuesday, got a gun and threatened to kill her, her three children, and the family dog.

Lorenzo Christopher, 42, 408 Terrace Drive, was charged in Chippewa County Court with possession of a fire arm by a felon, strangulation and suffocation, misdemeanor battery-domestic abuse and disorderly conduct-use of a dangerous weapon.

Judge James Isaacson ordered Christopher to be held on a $1,000 cash bond, with a requirement to have no contact with the victim or her residence. He also cannot consume alcohol or illegal drugs, or possess fire arms. Christopher will return to court March 12.

According to the criminal complaint, a juvenile called the Chippewa County dispatch center on Tuesday, saying that Christopher had a firearm and had threatened to use it against the juvenile’s mom. As an officer approached the house, he heard Christopher shout,” I’ll kill you.” When the officer entered the house, he found Christopher sitting on a couch, heavily intoxicated.

The female victim said she and Christopher were arguing over a tax return when he began to choke and punch her. The officer saw marks on her neck, and noticed her left eye was swollen. She said that Christopher had thrown her on the floor. He got up, went into the bedroom and got a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and he threatened to kill her, her three children, and the famiy dog.

Officers located three guns in the house. However, as a convicted felon, Christopher is not supposed to have any guns. Online court records show that Christopher was convicted of a felony-level drunk driving case in Eau Claire County in 2014.

Have you seen these people in Chippewa County? A list of those with active warrants out for their arrest
Have you seen these people in Chippewa County? A list of those with active warrants out for their arrest