By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The owner of a long-running family restaurant is under investigation for allegedly stealing tips from carhops.
The owner of Gene’s Root Beer Stand, a community fixture for decades, could face criminal charges pending a police investigation and review by prosecutors.
Susan Coppess and Courtney Smith, two former carhops for the restaurant, claim owner Andrew Moorman was taking a percentage of tips from carhops and also rang up purchases before restaurant hours. The two plan to picket in front of the restaurant in the 600 block of South Scatterfield Road today in protest of the alleged activities.
Coppess, an employee for four years, said Moorman approached employees at the beginning of 2012 and said he would be taking two percent of their tip money to help cover food costs and other expenses. Apparently, one carhop eventually had an attorney inform Moorman that the practice is illegal and ask him to stop. Moorman then paid some of the money back, according to Coppess.
At the beginning of June 2012, Coppess discovered Moorman and a manager had been ringing up purchases before the restaurant opened, purchases the carhops would be required to cover. Coppess said she confronted the owner about it, and he told her that if she did not go to the police she would have a job for life.
When she lost her job in March, Coppess decided to go to the police. Coppess claims she has receipt record evidence and an audio recording that back up her claims. She said those materials have been passed on to police. Coppess also said that Moorman offered her $400 to drop her complaint to Anderson Police, but she declined the offer.
Moorman’s attorney, Brian Williams, said this is a case of retribution against Moorman because the women did not get hired back on in 2013, and there are no real facts to support the case.
“This is an issue they complained about last summer, but they continued working throughout the summer and fall without any complaints,” Williams said. “The only reason we’re talking about this is because the women didn’t get hired back.”
At best, this is an issue that should be resolved in small claims court, Williams said, but the women have bypassed that by going straight to police.
“It’s unfortunate to have a community staple like Gene’s with such a great reputation be subject to this,” Williams said. “The fact they went straight to the police — it’s a sign of the times.”
Anderson Police Department spokesman Joel Sandefur confirmed Moorman is under investigation. The case is being handled by detective Mitch Carroll, who is currently on vacation. Sandefur said there is legitimacy to the claims and the owners could face charges of theft, or a more serious crime.
“A report has been initiated, and it has been handed off to the detective. Once we finish up our investigation, we’ll submit it to the prosecutor’s office and see if charges need to be filed,” Sandefur said.
Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings said he’s heard about the investigation, but as of Thursday evening his office hadn’t received details from police.
“I’m not sure whether the accusations have any merit or not until we see something,” Cummings said.
Coppess said she and Smith are planning to picket beginning about 10 a.m., before the restaurant opens. The women expressed hope that others would join them.
“We hope to get the message to the other carhops,” Coppess said.
She said that she and Smith contacted Carroll and shared their plan to protest and were told they were within their rights to do so. Sandefur said that if the protesters step onto private property, they’re subject to the demands of the owners, but as long as they stay on public grounds they’re free to peaceably assembly.
In a phone discussion, Moorman said he had no comment about the investigation.
“I think it would be a shame if the Anderson Herald [Bulletin] printed a story without knowing all the facts,” Moorman said.
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