Troubleshooter: Daycare closed

May 5, 2010 4:03:16 PM PDT
Parents say they were left in the lurch after the owner of Children's University of Chapel Hill daycare shut it down. "We're stuck with maybe a days notice not having daycare and having to patch things together and find babysitters," said parent Eric Deetz.

Another parent, Yassine Ouchucy said Children's University owner Lisa McEntyre did not give him a refund. "I pre-paid through the end of June, so she owes me about $3,000," said Ouchuchy.

And it's not just money that's missing.

"His stuff is still in the daycare, his clothes," said Ouchuchy.

Teachers are also victims in the shutdown. Some are owed thousands in back pay.

"It's tough, it's scary," said former teacher Karen Meade.

Meade says things started going bad in December when they had trouble cashing their checks.

"You would be in line literally to cash your check only to hear the person in front of you had gotten the rest of the money and there was no more money," she recalled.

But even though they couldn't cash their checks due to non-sufficient funds, they still showed up for work.

"We still took care of those children because we loved them. That's why each and every one of us came to work every day not getting our money, but we still came for the love of those children," said teacher Sadie Dula.

Dula says teachers weren't the only ones wondering what was going on.

"Then the parents got irate and they wanted to know 'I'm paying. Where the [expletive] is my money going?'" Dula recalled.

So where did the money go? In letters to the staff, McEntyre blamed the state - saying she hadn't received state aid and claiming "subsidy agencies seem to fall asleep at the wheel during the holidays."

"I'm hoping that with this, we become less reliant of the flaky methods of the state agencies," the letters continued.

But according to the state agency that handles child subsidies, they had been paying McEntyre. Records show she got more than $335,000 since July - including more than $22,000 in March. That was the month she locked the doors.

"She took us for idiots. She lied to us," said Dula.

Teachers claim McEntyre also lied by blaming former owners.

"She had a tax bill that the previous owners had incurred - a large tax bill - and that she was responsible for it and that we needed to bear with her and be with her and wait this out with her and that it would take a month for her to fix it," said Meade.

There was a tax bill, but not for the former owner's. It was McEntyre's. IRS documents show she owed the government more than $74,000 in unpaid taxes for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Those are years she owned Children's University.

It wasn't until March, just before she shut down, that the IRS ordered Orange County to garnish $30,000 from state subsidy money for the back taxes. But the IRS later told Orange County to give $21,000 of it back to McEntyre on March 31.

That was two weeks after she closed her doors. But employees say she did not pay them with the money.

"I am very upset with Lisa because she treated all of us unfairly and what she did proved that not only did she not care about us, but obviously she didn't care about the children," said Dula.

ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson tried to get some answers from McEntyre. We went to her Chapel Hill estate worth $1.1 million. We didn't get an answer at the door, but then a sporty convertible pulled up in the driveway.

"Will you please get off my property?" said McEntyre.

By law, we had to leave and we did. But we did hear from McEntyre about an hour later through her lawyer. The official statement? "The business failed. There is no more money."

That's not good enough for the children, the parents, or the teachers - like Dula - who worked there 26 years.

"I'm really full of anger and I'm sorry I'm this way but I'm 60-years-old. Where am I going to start over at? I had planned to retire from that building. I had planned to retire working with the children. Now, I don't know what life has in store for me," she said.

Besides the money problems, Children's University of Chapel Hill also had a lot of state violations - from inadequate teacher/child ratios, to not enough clean linens, to broken toys, and unlatched gates.

As for the children's things left behind in the daycare, McEntyre' attorney tells ABC11 if the parents send him a written request describing the items, he'll review the request with his client and see if he can help them recover what they're missing. Parents can contact Dewitt law, in Carrboro.

Some of the teachers ended up taking McEntyre to small claims court and winning thousands of dollars in judgments when she didn't show up. But those are just civil fines and they haven't been paid. The teachers say they're still trying to get criminal charges filed.

Meanwhile, a rep with the state says they're also after her for thousands in unpaid payroll taxes.

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