Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Me & Tremont Electric’s nPower® PEG - Cleveland deserves an apology from Tremont Electric
Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Thu, 04/04/2013 - 23:33.
UPDATE: Misuse of Shareholder Money & Tremont's Trust - I sent this to TE shareholders tonight. I am sending you this information regarding President Charles Ames' misuse of company funds because I believe Tremont deserves to know, as well.
In summer 2012, Mr. Ames hired a "cleaning lady," who went by several names, one of which was Nikki. The office did not need a cleaning service. We were perfectly capable of keeping the small space clean.
During this period, Mr. Ames rarely showed up at the office, except on Thursday night every two weeks, when the "cleaning lady" would arrive at 4pm, right before Mr. Ames. After which, Mr. Ames and the "cleaning lady" would invariably leave together. It was widely understood among employees that Mr. Ames met the "cleaning lady" while taking in her show at a strip club. He paid the "cleaning lady" out of company funds.
Last week, when I attempted to retrieve the records of payment for these services from the office manager, who reports directly to Mr. Ames, I was denied, as seen in the text messages attached.
In addition, Mr. Ames is known to have spent at least several hundred dollars on the company credit card at the newly opened casino in Cleveland. I don't know if he's reimbursed the company. All of this while employees were being paid less than half salary, after going 18 months without pay, and again with no pay since October 2012.
It is my hope that the shareholders will take immediate action to protect their investment.
p.s. In case you missed it, I have gone public with my concerns about the company in the link below.
On Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 11:12 PM, Tim Russo <tjrusso [at] gmail [dot] com> wrote:Tremonters,
Misuse of Shareholder Money & Tremont's Trust
Making electricity from nothing but walking should produce a company that doesn’t go bankrupt. I guess they’ll find out without me along for the ride.My professional relationship with Tremont Electric began with an unpaid bill for video work I did at Taste of Tremont, 2010, while I was running for office. It ended Friday, March 30, 2013, when they changed the locks without telling me.
After chasing payment for the last 6 months of 2010, I accepted in the form of shares in the company. In December, 2010, it was me who wrote the company a check, almost all my savings, for more shares. So did my mother. Like everyone in Cleveland, we bought into the dream - I first fell for it in 2009. We saw a new future for our city, and wanted to be a part of it. We thought nPower technology produced….
….more power than it did. Neither founder & inventor Aaron LeMieux, nor his company president Charles Ames, told me they’d learned in 2010 the power output of the nPower Personal Energy Generator (PEG) was about 1 thousandth what they were claiming. But they both knew. The whole company knew. None of the investors did, except Jessica Davis who made a compelling case once.
That power discrepancy started Aaron LeMieux’s and Charles Ames’ personal war, of which I am now a casualty. Ames demanded full control of the company, reporting only to the board. LeMieux gave it to him. Cue almost 3 solid years of palace intrigue and company paralysis resulting in a faulty product, almost no revenue, employees unpaid for years, and a company that’s nearly bankrupt today.
I should have seen it. Desperation can put you at the mercy of some really bad people. By May, 2011, after losing my race for county council, this deeply depressed ex-offender (my god I am so sick of this) was again desperate for purpose. So I begged Aaron in an email to let me volunteer for the company.
I don't need to get paid (at least not immediately), I don't need a title, I don't want a contract, all I want is to do something productive with my time for someone I want to help, and which makes me feel useful… I would much rather volunteer for you than for any other project of any kind - for a lot of reasons.…I'm happy to just put springs in tubes, or sort mail, or do anything at all that will at least fill my time with something productive, meaningful, and personally satisfying.
Soon, I was putting together PEGs, walking the dog, pretty much everything. For free. It gave me a 9-5 routine, kept me busy, let me think I was building another life. Aaron and Jill LeMieux were donors to my county council campaign, so I had reason to think this time, things would be different. I wouldn’t get hurt.
The first PEG never worked. You’ve all seen it, the green titanium tube that looked awesome, cost 180 bucks. Ames blamed it on the battery - a donut shaped malfunctioning folly, at $13 a piece, from a shady guy in Cleveland whose facility neither Ames nor LeMieux ever inspected. So after the next Taste of Tremont, 2011, Ames decided to redesign with off the shelf batteries from China at 2 bucks a piece. I remember watching Ames “redesign” the PEG by wrapping a piece of paper around a flat battery – tada. Looks like a Toblerone. Not exactly CAD/CAM. Off we went, raising a small amount from existing shareholders to keep the lights on. We even got paid a pittance for a while.
The new bigger, uglier PEG would at least work, right? Wrong. By April, 2012, almost a year into “redesign”, the button was failing, the casing was failing, the whole hideous thing was like a used car held together with duct tape – but the circuit board was the real problem.
We had one (count ‘em – 1) beta tester on the Appalachian Trail, who went through 3 units, each one worse than the last. He became so frustrated, he stopped using it. When you buy a PEG today, now at 199 bucks, you are lucky that it functions. The board is patched with software and hardware and tweaks and tucks – the board might even pop off its mounting if you’re not careful.
By now, mid-2012, I had a contract, they called me “communications strategist”, you know, media and stuff. I’ve had a lot of tough comm gigs, but putting lipstick on this pig was becoming impossible. Tried a crowdfunding thing that mostly face planted, but at least put some shekels in the till. Clamming up was the best, in fact, only way to go. So what I ended up doing every day, out of desperation for a paycheck for everyone, was trying to sell a product wholesale that barely worked and cost too much.
It never sold. Still doesn’t. REI bought some, they barely move. When we launched Hideous Toblerone Version 2, LeMieux told the PD in October 2012 that we had already sold 2,000 units. I was sitting there when he said it, and couldn’t believe my ears – not only were none of us being paid full salary, I was the guy trying to sell these things, and I could barely count 300 sold. By last Christmas, 2012, the company was dead in the water. We owe Delta Systems in Streetsboro half a million for unsold parts. Boy do I know how they feel.
The night Hurricane Sandy hit, it finally sunk in that both me and my mother had been misled for our money in the first place. I got so drunk that night I got arrested for a DUI. Still waiting for my court date. I started looking for another job. Got close to one in January, 2013, and it fell through, probably when they Googled me.
And so it begins again. As bad as this Tremont Electric mess was, it was all I had. My prospects would never change. My life will always be ruled by something I did over a decade ago. I had to make a choice – crawl into a hole and never come out, or fight for this company, try to fix it, try to make it work. I’m a fighter.
I wrangled a customer that would order massive quantities to bundle with phones in Africa if the wholesale price were $55, instead of $149. Because phones in Africa can’t stay charged. If customers can charge from walking, revenue goes to the provider. Magic. Deliverance. The quantities were so large, it got everyone’s attention. It was a jackpot. The hunt was on for cost savings. And guess what.
It was the circuit board all along, which, incredibly, costs at least 5 times what it should cost. And oh, by the way, the power output goes up 10 times with a normal circuit board that isn’t a piece of crap. I went into lawyer mode. Why were our costs so high? Who made these decisions? Who is accountable for starving the company for years based on a circuit board we could have had 4 years ago? I was on the warpath. I wanted Tremont Electric to be my new life, and wasn’t about to give up because we have an incompetently overpriced underperforming product.
It was Ames’ fault. Or LeMieux’s. Or someone other than the person you asked. Ames started claiming we needed to manufacture in China (remember that green jobs for Ohio angle?), though the high costs were a result of incompetence, not labor. Their personal war is so vicious, Ames had the entire company (including me) scheming against LeMieux for a year, and now, with Ames’ fingerprints all over both failed launches, LeMieux is marshaling shareholders against Ames. I was on the Ames side for a while,especially after my Hurricane Sandy DUI. After learning the truth, and Ames refused responsibility, I went to LeMieux and his wife to find a way forward, get rid of Ames, end the conflict, and start over. Yet again.
So LeMieux encouraged me to go to shareholders. I did. Caught in the middle, the guy who brings a $6 million customer to the table that saves the company got fired. I know they’re talking to shareholders…that is, except me and my mom. MY FUCKING MOTHER. Guess I should have expected as much from a relationship that began with an unpaid bill. I’m not the first person in the history of Tremont Electric to end up in this position. I don’t know if LeMieux called them “family” too, right before changing the locks on them.
I do know that this community has invested more good will in Tremont Electric than the company deserves, and it’s Cleveland that deserves an apology from Tremont Electric.
From: tjrusso [at] gmail [dot] com
Sent: 4/4/2013 6:01:39 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
It very much pains me to have to report the problems at Tremont's beloved clean energy startup, as I do in the post below.
All of us had the highest hopes for the company, and we've all been let down. Despite the challenges, I tremendously enjoyed my time at the company. Maybe someday those high hopes will be realized.
( categories: )