Attorneys for the Kidsville Early Learning Centers tried to convince a committee of early learning advocates that its owners have not committed fraud and should get back the roughly $400,000 in annual state funding the Early Learning Coalition recently pulled from Kidsville's centers in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.
But during a special hearing at headquarters for the Early Learning Coalition of PBC on Thursday, that committee didn't buy it and decided to uphold the suspension. During the two hour meeting, it was also announced for the first time publicly that four agencies including the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office are criminally investigating Kidsville's apparent owners for fraud.
"That was a surprise,” said Kidsville’s attorney Michael Karsch. “There's certainly no criminal intent,” he said after the meeting.
Back in February, the Contact 5 Investigators discovered how its owners were playing legal shell-game of sorts by selling the daycare to family members. The move allowed its owner, Marshas Myrthil, to continue collecting money from the state despite losing federal funds for not disclosing her own criminal record of fraud from an incident years earlier.
The Early Learning Coalition, which doles out government dollars to daycare centers who care for low income children, painted a picture to committee members on Thursday of a problem daycare with a history of safety concerns. The ELC believes the center is using a legal loophole to keep people who are disqualified from operating a daycare, operating in secret. The FL Dept. of Children and Families had disqualified Myrthil from being around children and operating a daycare because of her criminal record.
Warren Eldridge of the Early Learning Coalition is satisfied committee members upheld the suspension of funds pending the investigations. PBSO, the USDA, the Dept. of Financial Services and the Dept. of Health and Human Services are the agencies now investigating Kidsville's operators for fraud.
The loss of this money has already forced about 100 children to find a new daycare. The daycare centers which still care for about 200 children between its two PBC locations remain opened but the question is for how much longer.