ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Mich. (FOX 2) - A group of parents and former employees are bringing serious allegations against the Cozy Corner daycare center in Kimball Township, centering around the owner's husband, Timothy Vanbuskirk, who's a registered sex offender.
"One of the employees in a different room who was pretty much the lead staffer, came to me with a printed out piece of paper that was his sex offender registry," said Bridget Huff, a former worker. "I was so horrified I called my husband at the time that I was going to quit and not go back for one more single day."
That was in 2001. Bridget Huff had only worked at the Cozy Corner Daycare Center for roughly a year. She says Timothy Vanbuskirk is married to the owner of the daycare center and she saw him there several times a week.
"He was in there on a regular basis," said Huff. "He would relieve us when it was time for our breaks or our lunch. He was alone with my infant daughter several times. When he would come in he would immediately take a child out of my arms. He never came in and just sat down. He was always touching someone."
And now nearly 20 years later, some claim that not much has changed.
"I have had plenty of parents contact me looking for new care," said a former Cozy Corner employee.
She did not want to reveal her identity and says she and three other employees quit after learning of Vanbuskirk's status as a registered sex offender.
"He was constantly on the property fixing rooms, leaks in the building, all different kinds of stuff, so he was always on the property," she said. She worked at the daycare for a couple of years until 2019.
Timothy Vanbuskirk is a Tier 3 sex offender - a category reserved for those who committed the most serious crimes. Vanbuskirk was convicted of 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1994. The victim was a minor.
The former employees say there's long been chatter in the greater Port Huron area about the daycare and Timothy Vanbuskirk's connection to it, but it recently picked up steam thanks to a stream of posts in the Facebook group "Through My Eyes."
It is where Aleisha Ritchey saw Vanbuskirk's registration as a sex offender, confirming stories she first heard about Vanbuskirk roughly six months ago.
"I have a very open dialogue with my children about what is appropriate and what is not," said Aleisha Ritchey. "I have three young school-age children who went on two separate occasions to this daycare and I was never made aware that someone on the sex registry was allowed to frequent this property. I had no idea at all."
FOX 2 reached out to the daycare center twice Wednesday during business hours but no one answered the phone or responded to voicemails. On Friday, Aug. 14, we received a statement from owner and program director Christina VanBuskirk, which you can read below.
A state investigation found 18 violations at Cozy Corner back in 2015 after a toddler escaped through an open door was found walking near Lapeer Road.
The daycare center is still open but questions are still swirling.
"I don't know how somebody can continue everyday knowing what you're doing and what environment you're putting and risking these children in," said the former employee.
As for Vanbuskirk as a Tier Three sex offender, he's required to report in person and verify his registry information four times a year. His last verification date was last week.
On Friday, FOX 2 received the following statement from owner and program director Christina VanBuskirk:
"Cozy Corner stands behind its reputation to bring the highest quality of care and education for the families of St Clair County. I have been the owner and Program Director for 21 years and have supported children in the community. The center has worked extremely hard to earn a5-star rating through Great Start to Quality. Yes, I am married to a man on the PSOR, but that has in no way effected the care or safety of the children that attend the childcare center. My husband nor any other PSOR person has ever been permitted to come to the center while the children are present under any circumstances. Mr. VanBuskirk was put on the registry in 1994. The center became licensed in 1999 with full discloser of my husband to Licensing through the state of Michigan. Many staff and parents can attest to the fact that they have never seen him at the center. The information on Face Book and the news media is false and has not been fact checked. Cozy Corner follows all rules set up by the state of Michigan for Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Myself and my staff will continue to provide a safe environment for children to learn in. I will continue to support families and give them a safe place to bring their child while they work to provide for their families. I will stand in my truth, as a Christian businesswoman of St Clair County.What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be against us. Romans 8:31 - Chris VanBuskirk"