October 15, 2018 11:00 AM
The Democrat currently running for Lieutenant Governor, Sarah Riggs Amico, managed to get through her entire primary and much of the general election without much scrutiny or publicity. Her biography and resume have mostly been taken at face value. She’s labeled an outsider with Harvard MBA and as a “successful businesswoman”.
One of the roles that journalists are supposed to play in campaigns is to look beyond the candidate’s or their own narrative and vet the person running for office. Mrs. Amico only started to get that scrutiny when it was revealed that part of her stump speech has since at least June included a line that Republican Brian Kemp may not serve a full four years “in the Me Too era”.
This didn’t sit well with many as it only received wide coverage during the conclusion of the Kavanaugh confirmation process. The thought that a Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor was projecting that hypothetical “stuff happens” in the future while a Supreme Court Nominee faced uncorroborated charges of assault and rape brought a spotlight to Amico.
First out of the gate is was news that one of Amico’s business, Jack Cooper Transport Inc, was sued in April by 11 former employees claiming sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and a hostile work environment for the company’s African American employees. “Stuff happens”, indeed.
You can read the full 48-page complaint by clicking here, or part of the summary document outlining the case here. It details claims of African American workers getting few hours, worse shifts, slower to be promoted, and being quicker to be fired than their white counterparts. It also notes that the company didn’t have a posted sexual harassment policy until April 2017. Sarah Riggs Amico became a board member of Jack Cooper Transportation, the company run by her father, in 2011.
But what about the business itself? What defines success? Amico has said in her own materials that her company “… grew from 120 employees in 2008 to over 3,000 employees now. We buy and fix businesses that most people think aren’t ‘fixable’. We’ve been successful because we decided to invest in our people, even when that wasn’t what all the other companies were doing.”
Success? For her. In September of 2016, Amico received an increase in her base pay from Jack Cooper Holdings from $200,000 to $425,000, an increase of 112.5%. The company, however, was drowning in debt and losing money. The company reported a net loss of $33.27 Million that year. In March of 2017, the company reported $284.8 Million in total assets and $642.2 Million in liabilities, leaving shareholder’s equity at a negative $357.4 Million. In June of 2017, the company decided not to make its interest payments due on senior secured financing notes.
So what happened? More “stuff” happened. Bondholders were forced to accept pennies on the dollar in a negotiation for Jack Cooper to avoid bankruptcy. Secured creditors accepted 55 cents on the dollar, whereas unsecured creditors received just 15 cents for every dollar they were owed.
Moody’s Investors Service called this a “distressed exchange” and thus a default on their borrowing.
There are other companies with outstanding financial issues. Amico lists herself as the Executive Director of Jack Cooper CT Services, Inc., a subsidiary of Jack Cooper Holdings. As of September 25, 2018, that firm has been issued nearly $9,000.00 of unemployment compensation liens, which as of that date remained unpaid. “Stuff happens”.
Amico also boasts about taking care of her employees on her website, saying “I have learned that long-term growth and competitiveness come from investing in our people.” Aside, from the above lawsuit that claims her companies only invest in “some” people, there are reports from OSHA that call this claim into question.
In 2013, OSHA cited and fined Jack Cooper for a fatal accident that caused an employee head trauma and a fractured pelvis. In 2015, Jack Cooper was cited and fined again for a fatal accident. There were four citations by OSHA between these two incidents for non-fatal accidents that injured employees. While she says “Taking care of our people is never optional,” OSHA shows the company’s record says otherwise. “Stuff Happens?”
But, Sarah Riggs Amico has been taken care of by Jack Cooper Holdings. A year after defaulting on their debt obligations and forcing bond holders to accept pennies on the dollar, Jack Cooper Holdings was able to invest $17,000.00 into the campaign of their Executive Chairman. They haven’t been able to seem to fund their unemployment obligations to the State of Georgia, but they want Georgia taxpayers to give her a taxpayer funded job.
From making up future Me Too charges against Brian Kemp while her own company faces actual harassment and discrimination charges, from doubling her salary while defaulting on debt, and from leaving tax liens unpaid while funding her own campaign account, there is a stunning amount of hypocrisy surrounding the campaign and businesses of Sarah Riggs Amico.