COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - It's your money, and the Collier County School District made a mistake that could cost you millions of dollars.
For weeks, WINK News has investigated allegations that teachers at an electrical apprenticeship never got paid. For the first time, we confront the woman in charge and demand answers.
"As you know electricity can kill, someone could have died in the program," Martin McMurtrie explains.
McMurtrie, a teacher for the electrical apprenticeship at Lorenzo Walker, says the conditions students were working in while handling electricity was hazardous.
"They used to leave open gas cans in the lab while we had class going on," he says of mechanics the program shared a space with at the school.
To find out there was no insurance covering teachers and students, he thinks is astounding.
"If someone had, God forbid, gotten killed working in the lab...it would have been the Collier County taxpayers that would have been on the line for that."
In a statement from the school district, they say they don't have proof of insurance from the corporation running the program and they "assumed" it was there.
Thankfully, no accidents occurred during class; however, if something were to happen the school district could have been libel and that would have come out of the taxpayers pocket.
It's taken weeks, but Thursday WINK News finally caught up with Cindy Balterman. She runs the apprenticeship program, but says she she doesn't remember what year insurance lapsed.
"It slipped through the cracks and that is the bottom line, it slipped through the cracks, but it wasn't intentional," Balterman explains.
The news about the insurance, of lack of, comes after WINK News learned teachers never got paid. Balterman says that's because she's waiting on money from contractors.
When asked why she hasn't placed liens on the contractors to get money owed to the program, she says it would only hurt students in the apprenticeship. "We contact them, and again we're not mamby-pamby, it's just that if you brow beat people they don't respond."
McMurtrie says he is owed at least $15,000 in teaching costs.
So were did Balterman spend the money? She says money received from the school district doesn't cover all the expenses. Although, Balterman does confirm she spent some of it on backed payroll taxes. She assures she did not spend any of it on personal items.
"Until the checks are in our hands I can't do anything. I can't write checks that we don't have money for, but we are going to take care of it," Balterman claims.
WINK News has confirmed the Collier County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes unit is investigating this case. Balterman says she is unaware and hasn't been contacted by deputies.
Lack of oversight on insurance is a huge liability for the school district and taxpayers. We asked the district to search their records and tell us the last time they checked for insurance for this and other programs at the school.
The school district is still investigating and Balterman says they have just received all of the apprenticeship's financial records.