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. Dawkins is head of Project Hope Ministries, which runs the program.
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 during the spring break of last school year, shortly after Project Hope secured a $200,000 grant from the University of Miami so it could tutor children attending Lillie C. Evans K-8 Center at 1895 NW 75th St. in the spring and summer. "We brought in extra staff, hired some additional teachers, in order to help the students with the FCAT," Dawkins says. "As a result, we went over budget."
His program secured a separate $125,000 grant from Miami-Dade County, which he planned to use to cover his shortfall. But when Mayor Carlos Gimenez took office, he rescinded the grant to Project Hope as part of his moves to cut the county budget. Dawkins successfully lobbied to have the funds reinstated during the county commission's budget hearings this past September. "That's been the hold up," Dawkins says.
By the time summer rolled around, Project Hope was running out of money, Alexander claims. "We didn't have to be in this position," she says. "When the school year ended, 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 also didn't pay her for hours she worked during spring break, Alexander says. Another Project Hope ex-part-time tutor, Harving Stribling Jr., says Dawkins is in over his head. "Dawkins has been having problems handling money since he started," Stribling says. "Sometimes he paid us late. Other times hours we worked were missing from our paychecks."
Alexander and Stribling complained to school board administrators and University of Miami officials who oversee the grant about not getting paid and other serious concerns they had with Project Hope like the fact Dawkins employs his son and daughter, who have been convicted of check fraud and credit card fraud, respectively. "She's in charge of payroll and has access to our social security information," Alexander says. Riptide spoke to three other employees who affirmed the issues raised by Alexander and Stribling.
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Dawkins defended his decision to employ his children. "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."
He tells Banana Republican that he expects to receive the county grant fund within the next two weeks.