TWIN FALLS — Three Twin Falls staffing agencies have been embroiled in a civil dispute that spans almost a decade. A judge has recently issued yet another decision in the case.
The ruling this month — at least temporarily — resolved a case involving multiple claims made by Tom Welstad of Twin Falls Staffing, also known as Gem State Staffing, Derrick Hope of Extreme Staffing of Idaho and Joseph “Joe” Visser of Tradesmen Staffing. In the end, the judged ordered Visser to pay Gem State Staffing nearly $11,000 in wages that should have been garnished — but other claims against Visser and the other staffing agencies were dismissed.
“They did everything they could to dig up some dirt on me — and they failed,” Visser told the Times-News. “At the end of the day, I protected myself and I protected my family.”
But with active and pending criminal cases and continuing disputes between the agencies, it’s likely this won’t be the last time they appear in court.
Gem State Staffing and Visser have been in and out of court since 2009, Welstad said. Visser was ordered by a judge in 2013 to pay $351,901.55 to Gem State Staffing.
A judge at that time ruled that Visser had conspired with his father, Stan Visser, to leave Twin Falls Staffing (Gem State) and open a competing business — in violation of his employment agreement that had a non-compete confidentiality provision.
The amount Visser owed was reduced on appeal in 2014 to $233,750.
Since then, Gem State Staffing has received $8,747.73 in garnished wages from Visser, who began working for Tradesmen Staffing in 2014. Tradesmen Staffing is owned by his wife, April Visser.
Joe Visser reports he didn’t begin getting a paycheck from Tradesmen until November 2015 — and before that time he was a non-paid employee.
“He didn’t take a salary, his wife took a salary,” Welstad said. “That was how he played the game.”
But when Tradesmen went to pay the garnished wages in 2015, the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office had said the writ of garnishment had expired — and the money was sent back.
District Judge John K. Butler determined the sheriff’s office was doing it incorrectly, so Gem State Staffing will receive the wage garnishment, with interest.
“We didn’t contest whether or not money was owed,” Visser said. “That was money that was taken out of my check that we were trying to pay.”
But Welstad, the CEO and majority owner of Gem State Staffing, was also trying to prove that Joe Visser had an ownership in Tradesmen. If the judge had found this to be true, he said, Gem State Staffing would have been able to go after Tradesmen Staffing’s assets to receive the rest of the money Visser owes.
They were unable to prove that, so the claims were dismissed.
“He’s only not the owner on paper,” argued Hope, the owner of Extreme Staffing. “It’s only, in my opinion, to elude garnishment from Gem State.”
Joe Visser said his wife is still 100-percent the owner of Tradesmen Staffing, and it was her idea to open the business. He said he hopes Gem State Staffing “learned their lesson from this.”
He shouldn’t count on it.
“That’s too much money just to forget about,” Welstad said. “We’re not going to go away. All we want is our money.”
Meanwhile, the other staffing agencies also failed to prove that Visser took a customer list from Extreme Staffing when was employed there for three-and-a-half years. Visser said he took only his previous experiences from the business after he was fired and began working for Tradesmen Staffing.
Visser also said he was made an owner of Extreme Staffing, but that statement has been refuted by Hope and by a judge in 2016. Visser has said he was fired from the business after he declined to purchase it from Hope.
Visser was seeking punitive damages from wrongful termination, plus from incidences where he said Hope shot out the windows of Tradesmen Staffing in Twin Falls and Boise, as well as a window at Visser’s home.
According to online court records, Hope pleaded guilty to misdemeanor injury to property and disturbing the peace in Ada County. He was sentenced to jail time, suspended on condition of supervised probation. Hope has not been charged in Twin Falls.
Extreme Staffing had a counter-claim that Visser embezzled money from the business while he was employed there. Hope said the man embezzled thousands of dollars, paying for his wife's diamond ring, a storage unit, a suit and trips to the liquor store — all with a company credit card.
However, Extreme Staffing agreed to settle the case outside of court because Hope didn’t want to spend $60,000 to $80,000 more on attorney’s fees for money he didn’t think he’d be able to collect if he won.
“Ultimately, we decided not to continue to throw more good money at bad,” he said. “It was a complete ceasefire.”
Claims on both sides were dropped, but Hope said he was satisfied that the judge had determined Visser had never been an owner of Extreme Staffing.
But Visser still faces charges of embezzlement in Salt Lake County stemming from payments Visser made on Extreme Staffing’s credit card, Hope said. He was charged earlier this year with felony second-degree theft and unlawful use of a financial transaction card.
Visser said as part of the settlement, those charges will be dropped. But Hope maintains he has no control over that case, which is being prosecuted by the state of Utah.
Hope did, however, send a letter requesting those charges be dropped. If Visser is found guilty, Extreme Staffing could receive restitution.
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, who did not know about this particular case, said it would be extremely rare for a state prosecution to drop a criminal case because of a civil settlement.
A call to the Salt Lake County district attorney handling the case was not returned.
Welstad said the case didn’t grant him everything he’d hoped for, but, “We got some money out of Joe.” Hope said he expects this to be the last time he has to deal with Visser in civil court.
All sides have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, and they each have different stories as to who will be responsible for paying those fees.
Visser said he moved his family to Utah after their Twin Falls home was shot at. He maintains that he is a family man who’s being attacked by two competing businesses that have formed an alliance against him.
“I’m not a criminal,” he said. “I don’t have anything in my criminal record. If I did something wrong, then let the criminal actions play its way out in the criminal law.”