The Daily Evergreen

Cougar Country Drive-In owner responds to employee criticisms, Evergreen reporter

Witt-Miller says she will no longer respond to Evergreen; says she knows "the facts about all situations"

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen managing editor

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Cougar Country Drive-In owner Rhonda Witt-Miller responded to The Daily Evergreen’s article published Wednesday with a Facebook message to Kaye Gill, the main reporter on the story. The response read:

“HONESTY IS THE BEST PRACTICE IN THIS SORT OF SITUATION …I KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT ALL SITUATIONS MENTIONED IN ARTICLE…I AM DONE DEFENDING MYSELF OR PAST EMPLOYEES…I WANT TO THANK THE COMMUNITY AND THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE SUPPORTED ME …I WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR FURTHER COMMENTS…I REFUSE TO BE PART OF SUCH A FABRICATION OF FACTS”.

On Friday, several local publications wrote, based off of statements from general manager Richard Marshall, that Cougar Country may have to close due to alleged financial issues. Witt-Miller denied these rumors via Facebook message to the Evergreen editorial staff and said the temporary close happened because of a food shortage. They were waiting on a meat shipment and then would reopen, Witt-Miller wrote.

When the Evergreen first posted the article about the rumors of Cougar Country closing permanently, which Witt-Miller wrote were not true, several comments on that article, both on Twitter and Facebook, said employees had their checks bounce or had not received a paycheck at all from Cougar Country. These comments continued enough that the editorial staff at the Evergreen felt the issue was worth investigating.

At 2:59 p.m. Tuesday, Danielle Kack, a former supervisor at Cougar Country, reached out via Facebook message to the Evergreen. She wrote she wanted to provide clarity on this subject because, “Rhonda seems really unreliable based on what she’s been posting/saying over the last few days.”

Kack’s message also included that Witt-Miller held a meeting with some of her staff and “asked [them] to continue to work without knowledge of when she can pay us.” Evergreen reporter Kaye Gill then reached out to Kack, who agreed to go on-record for all of her comments with the full awareness they would reach print. Gill also reached out to employee Chelsea Emerson with the same knowledge of possible repercussions, and owner Rhonda Witt-Miller about the issues with the financial situation at the drive-in. Witt-Miller assured that employees would see payment at the end of next week, since she had taken out a loan to pay them. Gill wrote the story Tuesday afternoon.

At 9:18 p.m. Tuesday, during the Evergreen nightly production, former employee Zoey Rodriguez reached out via Facebook message and said she heard Gill was covering the story. She wrote that she would be available for comment because she “left cougar country at the end of last year because checks were bouncing already.” She gave an interview to Jayce Carral, on-record and with full awareness of the possible repercussions of her comments.

Everything that was quoted or paraphrased about Witt-Miller’s management skills, behavior and issues with checks bouncing was attributed to these three former employees, who went on-record and were aware of the severity of their comments. Both Carral and Gill recorded these interviews.

At 12:57 p.m. Wednesday, Kack sent clarifications to Gill via Facebook message regarding the story that was published. Kack clarified she believed the restaurant is temporarily closed because three-quarters of the Cougar Country staff said they will not return. The article initially stated that she believed the restaurant is temporarily closed because Witt-Miller only has three-quarters of the staff working for her.

She also clarified that she will not be returning to Cougar Country even after she is paid, and she was compensated in cash after her Jan. 10 paycheck bounced. Kack said she has not been compensated for her most recent check because she knows that there are no funds in the account.

About the Writer
SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen Managing Editor

Sydney is a sophomore journalism major from Las Vegas and the Life editor at The Daily Evergreen. She joined the Evergreen in fall 2017 as a freshmen reporter...

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Cougar Country Drive-In owner responds to employee criticisms, Evergreen reporter