COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - Teachers of an apprenticeship program for a Collier County school say they haven't seen paychecks in months. So why are they getting stiffed when the school district says they've already paid $168,000?
"After paychecks started bouncing, they were late, whatever, we kind of realized the money was gone or spent someplace," Martin McMurtrie says.
He and three other instructors of an electrical apprenticeship program at Lorenzo Walker Technical School say the last few months have been tough, because they haven't been getting paid.
"I kept getting oh we'll get to you, get you taken care of. We'll get your pay, but we just never see it." McMurtrie estimates he and the other instructors are owed nearly $15,000.
They get paid by Southwest Florida Electrical Apprenticeship Association (SWFEAA), a non-profit corporation that receives it's funds from the Collier County school district.
McMurtrie says he hasn't seen a paycheck for ten weeks of teaching, and blames the person in charge of the corporation, Cynthia Balterman.
"I don't think there was ever a budget put together, and even if it was they never stuck to it. It was kind of, and I hate to say this, it was kind of fly by night," McMurtrie says.
He believes money from the district went to pay off liens when the corporation changed from being under another corporation's chapter to becoming it's own entity. McMurtrie says Balterman received funds from construction companies that she sat on for years without cashing because they were under the old corporation's name. Those funds help run the program. He says now many of those checks are no good because the construction business flopped and many of the companies that wrote checks are now out of business, leaving Balterman in the red. McMurtrie believes Balterman used the school district's funds to pay off back payroll taxes and liens.
We went to Balterman's house to get her side of the story, but someone inside the house told us by phone that she wasn't home.
The school district says they paid the corporation $168,000 in October and only recently became aware of SWFEAA's financial trouble. They are looking into the matter.
WINK News has requested a copy of the contract between the district and SWFEAA to see what the district's responsibility is in overseeing the corporation.
As for this school year's program that finishes in June, McMurtrie says they will continue to work for free if they have to.
"We've got to finish it. We can't just say sorry we're not finishing the program, that wouldn't be right for the students."