By Melissa Dunson
SiriCOMM has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and a board member says the company’s future is in question.
According to documents filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, SiriCOMM’s board members signed the paperwork agreeing to file for bankruptcy on Dec. 10, and they had 30 days to act on it. The bankruptcy petition was submitted Friday.
William Tylle, SiriCOMM’s former network operations manager, alleged Monday that SiriCOMM continued to call employees to show up and work even after agreeing initially to file for bankruptcy.
“That’s pretty crappy,” he said.
Tylle, who said he and others are owed hundreds and even thousands of dollars in back pay, said he was officially laid off Friday, even though he claims he hasn’t been paid for nearly a month. Some workers were laid off in November, but Tylle and others were kept on board and kept working.
Bankruptcy paperwork was signed by board members Dick Landis, Mark Grannell, Steve Fox and Terry Thompson. Board member Bill Moore did not sign the paperwork. The documents indicate that Moore was not present for the meeting. Fox, Thompson and Moore did not return phone calls Monday.
Grannell also is president and chief executive officer. He said Monday that he would not comment until after the holidays.
Landis, of Litchfield Park, Ariz., said SiriCOMM officials are looking at all possible options for keeping the company open, but he said it is too early to tell if that will be possible.
Tylle said he returned Friday to the company’s corporate office at 4710 E. 32nd St. in Joplin to hand over his company equipment, and watched as computers and phones were removed from the building.
“They mentioned we were having money problems earlier this year, but they said they were securing investors,” Tylle said. “When they laid off people Nov. 10, they told us they were doing it so they could pay the rest of us through the end of the year. I never figured they wouldn’t pay us.”
Grannell said last week that the company’s future was uncertain.
Said Landis: “This is a great company with a great product, and we’re trying to do everything possible to take care of our customers.”
SiriCOMM has made software for trucking companies that used a broadband data network allowing truck drivers, fleets and families to communicate. The company has been in operation since 2000 and had nearly 500 Wi-Fi hot spots at truck stops across the country.
Landis said he did not know if SiriCOMM’s Overland Park, Kan., office would stay open, and he would not comment on the allegation that the company continued to call employees in to work after deciding to file for bankruptcy. He referred all questions on employees — including wages — to Grannell.
Tylle said his immediate supervisor, Kory Dillman, informed him last week that he probably would not get his back wages. Tylle worked for SiriCOMM for three years and said the company’s closure came at a bad time.
“We’re not going to have much of a Christmas,” he said. “We got just one present for each of the kids. Our family and Joe (Kennedy, a fellow employee) are having Christmas dinner together to save on money.”
According to court records, SiriCOMM estimates that it has 50 to 99 creditors, and says that it should have funds to distribute to unsecured creditors. As of June 30, the company had estimated assets of $3,991,222 and total debt of $3,912,400.16. That would leave nearly $80,000 unclaimed.
SiriCOMM’s largest debt is owed to ViaSat Inc., a satellite company that provided SiriCOMM’s hot spots. According to the documents, SiriCOMM owes ViaSat more than $1.85 million. In November, ViaSat disconnected SiriCOMM, citing “certain key issues, including non payment,” according to a SiriCOMM statement.
Other creditors include Hank Hoffman, a former president and chief executive officer. Hoffman filed a lawsuit against SiriCOMM in November in Newton County alleging breach of contract. He previously told the Globe that he would not comment on the lawsuit.
Grannell also previously told the Globe that he would not comment on Hoffman’s lawsuit. But in SiriCOMM’s most recent quarterly filing, the company alleged that Hoffman breached provisions of his employment agreement.
Melissa Dunson is the business writer for The Joplin Globe.
Former SiriCOMM employee William Tylle said he and other employees have contacted an attorney, but they don’t know if the case will get off the ground because they don’t have the money to pay the legal fees.
According to court papers, SiriCOMM has retained the law firm of Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan & Suelthaus, of Kansas City.
It cost the company more than $1,000 to file the paperwork, and an additional $50,000 to retain the law firm.
Each SiriCOMM board member is listed as a creditor, for $20,000 each in compensation.
By Melissa Dunson
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