local business insights Neal St. Anthony |

Carl Nimis, a blind, 51-year-old chef whom I wrote about last year, has been dismissed after three years with Chipotle Mexican Grill in Golden Valley and other locations.

"I'm not so much mad as I am shocked," said Nimis, who was honored by employment-trainer Goodwill Easter Seals and who also received a written commendation from the co-CEO of Denver-based Chipotle in 2012. "I appreciate the employment history Chipotle gave me and the support they gave me when I'd walk to raise money for charities. …

"The manager who dismissed me said I didn't always follow company procedures. They didn't always follow company procedure when they'd open [the restaurant] with only two or three people instead of the five or six we were supposed to have."

A spokesman for Chipotle, a fast-food chain that has been in the news as much for employee turnover and stratospheric-CEO compensation as the good grub, declined to comment on Nimis' dismissal.

In 2012, co-CEO Monty Moran wrote to Nimis to congratulate him on the Goodwill recognition and laudatory article about him in a magazine about people who overcome disabilities. "Thank you for your hard work and for making us a better company," Moran wrote.

I was alerted to the situation several days ago by Mikayla Voelker, a former Roseville Chipotle kitchen manager for whom Nimis regularly worked extra shifts, taking the bus from Golden Valley.

"Carl would be the first one there and the last one to leave," Voelker said. "The only time he would get a break is when I would make his food and bring it to him. He wouldn't even sit down. Some of the younger workers didn't like his [serious] attitude. He would tell them to please turn down their offensive music and get to work. They didn't have such a great work ethic."

Voelker said she quit her $11 an hour job last September because she found a better job in building management and because it was too stressful "trying to cover all the shifts." She also claims workers routinely took no breaks and worked 10- and 12-hour shifts without overtime.

"There was high turnover at Rosedale because it was busy and people got burned out … and sometimes it would just be me and Carl. He just kept coming because he wanted the extra work, and sometimes I'd give him a ride home if it was late at night."

Nimis said his performance reviews were good and that his hourly pay rose from $7.50 to $10.25 when he was dismissed. Nimis said he wants to work rather than collect the Social Security Disability Income to which he is entitled. He's probably done with the fast-food industry and is looking for work at a full-service restaurant.

TCF discloses changes in CEO pay terms

TCF's preliminary proxy, filed Feb. 23, includes a letter to shareholders from the board of directors disclosing that it has "taken several actions to better align our corporate governance practices with expectations of our stockholders."

The changes came after directors met with investors who have more than 47 percent of the institutional ownership in TCF.

Under TCF CEO Bill Cooper's employment contract, amended last year, he will be CEO through 2015, after which he'll remain chairman through 2017. The letter states that contract has been amended: "Mr. Cooper will no longer be entitled to a lump sum severance in the event he terminates his employment for Good Reason where the Good Reason was the failure by the Board to elect him as Chairman."

Whether the changes will satisfy proxy advisory firms and ultimately shareholders is yet to be seen.

At TCF's annual meeting last April, shareholders followed the recommendation of advisory firms Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services and voted down the company's "Say-on-Pay" proposal.

Support for TCF's executive compensation has been relatively weak. Less than 70 percent shareholder approval of Say-on-Pay proposals is widely viewed as a loss for management. In 2011, 65 percent of TCF shares were voted in favor of its proposal; 76.5 percent in 2012 and less than 62 percent in 2013.

A spokesman for Institutional Shareholder Services said they conduct "a more rigorous analysis" at companies that fail to gain 70 percent support for their Say-on-Pay vote in the previous year. A new report from ISS on TCF should be available in early April.

The majority of TCF CEO Bill Cooper's $17.1 million in 2014 compensation was $12.1 million from previously issued performance-based restricted stock that vested during the year. Cooper also got $4.5 million in salary and cash bonus.

TCF has been mentioned as a takeover target. Should it be sold this year and Cooper's 30-year tenure ended, he'd be eligible for payments equal to three times the sum of his base salary and annual cash incentive.

Patrick Kennedy

Cirrus Aircraft ascends under Chinese owner

Cirrus Aircraft, under new ownership since it was nearly grounded during the Great Recession, shipped 308 SR22 general aviation aircraft in 2014, its best year since 2008.

That's also a 12 percent increase over 2013. The company has boosted employment to 850, up from 500 in the wake of the recession.

The Duluth-based company, which also is working on a private jet, was acquired by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft for an unspecified sum in 2011. It's estimated that China Aviation is investing $100 million to bring the long-anticipated single-engine commuter jet to commercial production within the next couple of years.

Todd Simmons, executive vice president of marketing and customer support, said in a prepared statement: "2014 was not only a strong year for new aircraft deliveries at Cirrus, but just as important we made substantial progress in key areas across the enterprise that are critical for growth ahead. Investing in the future, continuing to promote safety and enhancing the customer experience defined Cirrus Aircraft in 2014."