By: Matt Gephardt
(KUTV) Kristi Wingert's mom passed away in March of 2012. Back in February, Kristi paid Ogden based American Monument $881 to build a headstone. According to the contract, the monument would be in by Memorial Day.
Memorial Day came and went with no headstone so Kristi says she called American Monument.
“They said that it was stuck on a truck in China,” Kristi said.
After that, Kristi says she emailed American Monument President Devin Taylor directly.
“I sent him an email saying, if you care about my business I hope you respond to this.” Kristi says Taylor did not respond so she asked for a refund. But again, she says no one responded.
Frustrated, this time Kristi decided to Get Gephardt.
This is not the first time 2News has reported on American Monument's delivery delays. In 2012, three different customers decided to Get Gephardt after each was able to show that American Monument had missed their promised delivery dates.
At that time, Taylor blamed the economy. "A lot of it's just the logistics of the world,” he said. “Quarry's don't have the staff they used to have. Look at ships. Look at how much longer it takes to get things across the ocean. Look at things just coming [on] freight lines. Obama's hurt this country immensely."
Eventually, all three people featured in that 2012 report did receive a refund. See that original report here: http://www.kutv.com/news/features/gephardt/stories/vid_378.shtml
Now, in this new investigation, 2News has learned that American Monument is accused of not paying its bills. American Monument has been sued by two different United States granite suppliers; those suppliers attempting to collect owed money.
Judges have ordered American monument pay more than $50-thousand to settle its debts with the two granite suppliers. Court records show that more than half of that debt has been paid.
To discuss the lawsuits and Kristi's complaint, Taylor had agreed to meet with 2News but when we arrived for the scheduled interview a worker in the showroom turned off the lights and quickly left the room. A few minutes later, the phone rang in the showroom. It was a call from Devin Taylor’s attorney, Matt Wadsworth. Wadsworth told 2News that the interview was cancelled and he's advised Devin Taylor not to talk to us anymore.
Immediately, American Monument and their lawyer went to work to try and keep this story from being reported. In court papers they argue that Get Gephardt wishes to “hold American Monument in false light." Specifically it reads, “Mr. Gephardt made it clear that he could care less about truth.” And the papers allege that I, Matt Gephardt, have a personal vendetta against Devin Taylor.
I then received a call from 2nd-District Court Judge Scott Hadley. After some discussion, Hadley told me that I was indeed to keep quiet. He granted a temporary restraining order forbidding me from talking about American Monument.
My lawyer went to work arguing in court documents that the judge's decision to silence speech or the press is "unconstitutional prior restraint." American Monument's lawyer ultimately agreed to drop their attempts to silence me and 24 hours after I was forbidden from talking about American Monument, Judge Hadley lifted the restraining order.
A day later, Wadsworth sent 2News a statement that reads, “we delight in the opportunity to address any and all issues.”
Regarding the two granite companies that sued American Monument, the statement reads, "please understand that companies often owe venders money and have running balances. This is commonplace.”
The statement implies that the remaining debt will be paid, reading that the one granite company still owed money “has only a remaining balance of $22,000.00.” The other granite company “was paid in full this past spring.”
As for Kristi's mom's headstone that was due on Memorial Day, the statement reads that the stone Kristi ordered "was on back-order."
Kristi says that immediately after I called American Monument on her behalf, she finally did hear back from someone and was ultimately given a full, $881 refund.
The statement also says that American Monument has "helped and served over 8,000 families over the past 6 years."
Going forward, American Monument will have a different person in charge. Devin Taylor is “stepping down” as president due to “significant medical issues,” the statement reads.
The full statement from American Monument is below. It includes references to other American Monument customers, Cyrstal Clayburn and Donna Marcellu. Each contacted Get Gephardt with complaints that the headstones they ordered were not delivered in the contracted time-frame and on behalf of whom 2News spoke to American Monument.
“As you know, Devin Taylor, the President of American Monument (hereinafter “American”), has had significant medical issues as of late. Mr. Taylor had a stroke on June 24th, 2013, and because of this he will be stepping down as President of American.
“American would greatly appreciate your support with the OurAmericanHero program where American will be honoring a real American Hero residing in the great state of Utah. We plan on honoring one hero per month. Your viewers will be able to obtain information about the problem at OurAmericanHero.com to be launched shortly.
“As you know, American is about to celebrate its 50th year anniversary of being in business. It has helped and served over 8,000 families over the past 6 years and employs roughly fifty people and takes great pride in helping the Utah economy. American has grown in market share significantly over the past few years due to its unique approach, ingenuity and evolution in the processing of monument creation. This process has not been perfect, however, and the cases you seek information regarding that are referenced above all had issues with back-end vendors, design selection or cemetery regulations that were inharmonious with the client’s order. As you have said personally before, you know American “does good things” and we delight in the opportunity to address any and all issues. Kristi Wingert ordered a product that was on back-order, it is our policy to offer a free upgrade in situations like this; we offered Mrs. Wingert a free upgrade to another design, but she declined and a refund was issued. Crystal Clay
burn ordered a monument that cemetery regulations mandated a unique base size and two pieces had to be cut from the same piece of material at the same time and place. The in-stock piece we had was sold to a prior customer that made an order just before Mrs. Clayburn’s and another had to be ordered. This particular piece is difficult to obtain from our venders and caused delays. Like all businesses, we don’t have power to control our vender timelines. Donna Marcellus’s order was a very unique design and the pieces had to be ordered from overseas. Naturally, this process takes some time.
“Regarding the two granite companies you inquired about, please understand that companies often owe venders money and have running balances. This is commonplace. The accounts that you referenced are Techstone Granite, which was paid in full this past spring, and Cold Spring Granite, which has only a remaining balance of $22,000.00. You should note that when these debts originated only Mr. Taylor personally guaranteed the loans and the other two shareholders either would not or could not guarantee the loans. After the other two shareholders sold their shares the debts remained and both American and Mr. Taylor have honored those obligations, which is their business practice.
“Mr. Taylor has been complimented by venders for honoring his debts and running such a standup and ethical business. These are not the only two venders American has worked with and there are many others that American enjoys a fantastic working relationship.”
The statement is addressed to Mr. Gephardt. The statement is signed by Matt Wadsworth, J.D.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)