Sommer Arrested Days Before Election Over Wage Dispute
Jack Sommer won a seat on the School Committee in the November 2 election. He was arrested on a warrant for failure to pay weekly wages on Oct. 29
When School Committeeman-elect Jack Sommer got pulled over for speeding on October 29, driving too fast turned out to be the smaller of his problems. The state trooper put his name in the police database and it turned out there was a warrant out for his arrest.
The incident leading to the issuance of the warrant was $1,994.50 in unpaid wages to an employee in 2007. The employee, David Catuto, had filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor and Training. The DLT ruled in Catuto's favor in May 2009, granting him the $1,994.50. It fined Sommer an additional $498.62 as a penalty.
Six months after Sommer did not pay the two amounts, according to Laura Hart at the DLT, the matter was turned over to the Attorney General's office for collection. A warrant was issued last July.
Sommer appeared in court on November 5 and paid the nearly $2,500. The matter was then dismissed.
In a written statement, Sommer (whose company at the time was called Team One) said he had not known about the warrant.
"Team One disputed the claim with RI Dept of Labor & Training and presented the dispute at the DLT hearing. We subsequently filed an appeal after the employee's claim was upheld by RI DLT, and never heard from the state regarding its outcome. Up until two weeks ago (October 28th, 2010), I was unaware that any decision had been rendered and there had been no communication regarding this DLT decision," Sommer wrote.
"I wasn't ignoring it. If I'd know about it, it would have been taken care of," he said in a subsequent interview. "The ball was in their court. I was waiting."
Hart said the Department of Labor and Training has no record of an appeal filed by Sommer.
"Were he to have filed an appeal, the department would have been served papers," she said. "The matter would be heard in Superior Court and we would be served papers."
The Attorney General's office received the case in February 2010.
"We don't issue a warrant without telling the guy," said assistant attorney general Matt Dawson. "What normally would happen is a summons is sent to an individual and they are given a court date."
If the person fails to appear on that date, a warrant is issued, said Dawson.
Sommer said he received nothing by mail. "I'm assuming that's because I changed addresses," he said.
Sommer's company at the time of the original complaint – Team One – was located at 6899 Post Road in North Kingstown. He started working at Eagle Nationwide Mortgage at 3 Franklin Road in East Greenwich on January 1, 2009.
The original complaint
David Catuto went to work for Sommer as a mortgage broker in 2007. According to Catuto, he was what's called in the mortgage business a full-time "inside" employee. As such, he said, he was due at least the minimum wage. "I worked off their leads," he said. Catuto said Sommer also owed him commission on a sale he had made.
Sommer disputed Catuto's contention that he was an inside employee, saying that Catuto had signed a paper that identified himself as an outside employee, thus ineligible for any wages.
Catuto acknowledged that he had signed such a paper, but said that he was only presented the paper after he had sold a home equity loan – after he had been working at Team One for six weeks - and that he signed it hoping to expedite his commission.
Sommer said that Catuto would have been given that paperwork within his first week on the job.
Catuto, who received a check for $1,996.50 last Tuesday, said he was happy for the money. But, he said, it was more the principal of the thing.
"I thought it would never get this far," he said. " I thought he would pay me."