A Liberty City tutoring program is under fire from former employees who say not only has it failed to pay about $50,000 in wages, but also it employs two children of the program's chief, Anthony Dawkins — both of whom have criminal convictions for fraud.
"There are folks who have suffered financial difficulties because they haven't been paid," says Adrian Alexander, a Miami-Dade Public Schools speech pathologist who says she's owed about $1,000. "Dawkins doesn't seem to care."
Dawkins admits he hasn't paid his bills and that his ex-con kids are on the books. But he says he's trying to rectify the problems and blames the county for yanking a grant he needed to pay tutors.
"We're doing all we can," says Dawkins, who heads Project Hope Outreach Ministry, which runs the program. "We have nothing to hide. Everyone will get paid very soon."
The problems began around spring break last year, shortly after Project Hope received a $200,000 University of Miami grant to tutor at Lillie C. Evans K-8 Center. The program went over budget, Dawkins says, and then secured a $125,000 Miami-Dade County grant to balance the books.
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But after Mayor Carlos Gimenez took office, he canceled the funds when he slashed the county's budget. Dawkins wasn't able to get the money reinstated until September. "That's been the holdup," he says.
Teachers such as Alexander say he should have been upfront about the money woes. "We didn't have to be in this position," she says. "Dawkins should have told us he did not have full funding in place so we could have the option of working there or not."
He has also raised ire by employing two of his kids — Taneisha McPhee and Louis Dawkins — who have convictions for check fraud and credit card fraud, respectively. "She's in charge of payroll and has access to our social security information," Alexander says of McPhee.
Dawkins defends his children's employment. "Project Hope is all about helping ex-offenders and their families," he says. "My children are not the only employees with a criminal past, all of whom were cleared by the school board. We believe in giving people second chances."