Camas firm faces new wage claims

Total of 9 workers say Lightfleet owes them back pay

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Camas-based Lightfleet faces two new wage claims from former employees even as it tries to whittle away at payments on seven earlier claims, which keep rising due to penalties and interest payments of 1 percent per month.

The larger of those new claims was filed April 26 by Ray McNamee, who said the company owed him $162,000 for uncompensated work prior to September, 2010. The second claim was filed May 19 by Umair Sophie, for $17,850 he says is owed for work prior to January 2009.

McNamee and Sophie could not be reached for comment.

The struggling company, whose promising technology for using light beams to connect computer processors so far has failed to find a steady customer, also owed $214,740 from seven previous claims. It could have been worse: the company has paid $115,477 so far on those seven claims, said Elaine Fischer, spokesperson for the state Department of Labor & Industries.

“The company doesn’t deny the claims but cannot pay them,” Fischer said by e-mail. “We will continue to try and collect the back wages and likely there will be penalties and interest added in the future.”

John Peers, Lightfleet’s chairman and chief executive officer, said both McNamee and Sophie had worked on Lightfleet’s engineering team. “We wish they were still here,” he said.

Peers said Lightfleet now has 14 employees, all working without pay, down from 18 in the spring. He said discussions continue with several potential investors.

The company, he still believes, has to succeed and become a large employer.

“I’m still very confident we are going to get this done,” Peers said. “I remain determined.”