Updated story: CLINTON, Iowa — The Iowa Division of Labor Services is investigating Flav’s Fried Chicken over complaints from several former employees that their paychecks bounced, an agency official said Thursday.
In response, restaurant co-owner Flavor Flav told the Quad-City Times “mistakes happen” in the restaurant business.
“You don’t hear about it until a high-caliber celebrity like myself is involved,” he said.
Flavor Flav, a founding member of the hip-hop group Public Enemy, brought national attention to Clinton when he and local operator Nick Cimino opened the restaurant in January. They said Thursday they hope to open restaurants in Davenport, Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and the Florida Keys.
But complaints by four former employees of unpaid wages were confirmed Thursday by the Quad-City Times.
Ashley Kostka said she was able to cash one paycheck but was waiting to be reissued another that had bounced. She had to cash her check in Rock Falls, Ill. — 30 miles from Clinton — because businesses and banks in the Clinton area have stopped cashing checks from Flav’s Fried Chicken, she said.
“It’s a mess,” Kostka said. “I have bills to pay.”
She had been waiting for her wages since March 7.
Kelly Butler said she’s been paid some of her wages but is still owed two paychecks.
“When we’re supposed to get paid, we don’t get paid,” she said. “Paydays went from every Sunday, to every Tuesday and then Thursday. I was never paid on any of those days.”
They said they quit over the wage dispute.
Cimino told the Times the dispute has been settled.
“I’m not out to screw anybody.” he said. “It ain’t like we did this on purpose.”
Cimino blamed the bouncing checks on a credit card machine glitch at the restaurant.
He also confirmed his bank account had insufficient funds to meet payroll.
Regarding the state investigation, Cimino said, “I don’t have a problem with them investigating me at all.”
None of the employees interviewed by the Times have sued Cimino over unpaid wages. However, court records indicate Cimino was the defendant in seven small claim cases in Clinton County and 11 small claim and arbitration cases in Whiteside County.
In the most recent case in Whiteside County Circuit Court, the court ruled against Cimino on Tuesday, saying he owes $2,169.88 to RRCA Accounts Management Inc.
Hansen Sign Co., Clinton, sued Cimino in May 2006 over payment for signage for Cimino’s other Clinton restaurant, Mama Cimino’s.
“I’m glad he didn’t call us when he opened (Flav’s Fried Chicken),” company owner Joe Hansen said. “I wouldn’t work for him again.”
Cimino responded to those cases, saying, “Things have gotten paid. It took me a little bit, but they got paid. I think my credibility is really good.”
He added, “I’m still open, ain’t I?”
Nicholas Cicero, a wage investigator for the Iowa Division of Labor Services, could not be reached for additional comment about the state investigation.
Previous story: The Iowa Division of Labor Services is investigating Flav’s Fried Chicken in Clinton, Iowa, over complaints from several former employees that their paychecks bounced, an agency official told the Quad-City Times this morning.
The restaurant’s namesake and co-owner Flavor Flav could not be reached for comment. Nick Cimino, the local operator of the restaurant, has not returned calls for comment.
Despite Flav’s and Cimino’s claims made to WQAD-TV this week that all employees have been “paid in full,” four former employees confirmed to the Quad-City Times that as of this morning, they still are waiting for their money.
Ashley Kostka said she’s holding onto a paycheck dated March 7 but cannot cash it because she’s told there are insufficient funds in Cimino’s bank account at Freedom Bank in Rock Falls, Ill.
Kostka was waiting for a call back from the restaurant’s bookkeeper this morning. Once the money’s in the account, Kostka will have to drive from her home in Clinton to Rock Falls — about a 30-mile trip one way — because businesses and banks in the Clinton area have stopped cashing checks from Flav’s Fried Chicken because they kept bouncing, she said.
Meanwhile, her own bank account is more than $400 in the red because of the bounced checks from the restaurant, and she’s been hit with numerous overdraft fees, she said.
“I cashed my check, went to pay my bills, and a week later, I get a letter saying the check bounced,” she said.
The paycheck Kostka is holding onto and waiting to cash in Cimino’s account is for $310.02 dated March 7. She’s also waiting to receive another paycheck.
“I have a 3-year-old boy. I have to pay bills. My account was closed,” she said. “There’s been a whole lot of drama over this.”
Kostka quit March 29 after two months working at the restaurant. “I was tired of getting jerked around,” she said.
Nicholas Cicero, a wage investigator for the Iowa Division of Labor Services, could not be reached to comment further about the investigation.
A founding member of the hip-hop group Public Enemy, Flavor Flav drew national attention when he and Cimino opened the restaurant in January.
“I’ve been waiting since March 7 to be paid,” Kostka said.