Local gym outfit Fitness SF — which last year switched from being a Gold's Gym franchisee due to a certain 2010 donation to a conservative, anti-gay cause made by the parent company's CEO — came under fire from a disgruntled freelance web designer they employed to create their web presence. Frank Jonen, a designer based in Dusseldorf, appears to have gotten in a disagreement with the gym over his bill, and he claims that he did more work than he was paid for. In retaliation, he replaced the Fitness SF website with an angry letter about the situation, proclaiming to the delight of freelancers everywhere, "We need to make a stand against crooks like this," and asking supporters to retweet his tirade. Fitness SF, of course, disputes Jonen's claims and is currently preparing a statement in response.

Jonen, for his part, sounds like a bit of a drama queen in all this, but we're sure that the truth lies somewhere between his sweeping claims of non-payment, and Fitness SF's claims that Jonen was paid and is now "trying to blackmail the company and extort more money from them," as they told AdWeek.

As freelancers everywhere know, it can be deeply painful to have large bills outstanding that clients haven't paid, so certainly we empathize with Jonen's anger. The gym, however, is hardly the "larger corporation" that Jonen paints them to be (they have four locations, in Oakland, Marin, and two in the city), and his talking about not getting sleep "for days on end" in the creation of what was really a fairly simple website seems to us like hyperbole.

The bigger question here might be why, in a city full of web designers, did the company decide to outsource to Europe?

Nevertheless, it's been an effective ploy for attention to Jonen's cause (not sure if it's going to win him a lot of new work, or an immediate payment from Fitness SF, though), and we'll update you when Fitness SF releases their official response. For the time being, their website remains hijacked, and CEO Don Dickerson could not be reached for comment.

Update: As promised, Fitness SF's official side of things-

On Wednesday evening, our domain name Fitness SF was hacked and stolen by an individual named Frank Jonen. Frank was hired on May 16th, 2012 to develop a functional website for our brand. A $5,000 payment was made to him on the same date. In his proposal, he stated that the website would take 10 weeks to complete. He missed numerous deadlines including our brand launch in September. In December, he voluntarily passed the incomplete and non functioning website to our new design firm.

Now, Frank is attempting to portray himself as the victim when truly the victim is Fitness SF as he attempts to get paid for work he did not complete and has decided that blackmail is the way to accomplish that.

Update 2: It looks like they got their homepage and domain wrenched out of Jonen's hands and back online, though the links still need to be re-coded, and don't work.

[Denver Egotist via AdWeek]