Special ed providers say they are owed thousands
A group of special education providers says they're owed thousands of dollars for work they did more than a year ago, and they're blaming poor oversight of a New York State-run program.
"They hired us, the state hired us and approved us for services and then we got screwed," said Pat Voyko, a special education teacher who provides early intervention services.
Voyko, Francine Phillips and Hope Corenzwit all work with special needs children. They say they did months of work for a then state-licensed agency back in 2013 and still haven't been paid for it.
"We would check [they'd say] 'money's coming, money hasn't come from the state, but they'll make good on it,'" Phillips said.
"It was very difficult, I had to take out a loan to cover my living expenses, which I still have to repay," Corenzwit said.
The women all worked for Dynamic Center of Florida in Orange County, New York. They're part of a group of more than 20 educators who say they're owed a total of $156,000 from Dynamic.
"You have $156,000 for 24 different providers, this wasn't an accident they weren't paid, it's not an oops, this is an intentional nonpayment by a corporate entity to the service providers," said Wayne Thompson, an attorney who has been retained by the women.
The women blame Dynamic's owner Robin Seccafico for not paying them. But they are also faulting the state. Documents show Seccafico and Dynamic collected almost $1.4 million in early intervention funds during 2013 and 2014 admonished by the New York State Department of Health.
"For me it's a matter of what's right and what's just," said Voyko. "We did the work. We did the work that was authorized by the state, payment was authorized by the state and we did not receive our money."
Orange County officials confirmed to us they were aware of nonpayment by Dynamic in 2013 and alerted the Health Department, but Dynamic continued to collect funds.
Meanwhile, a New York State Comptroller's audit of special education preschool programs for children ages three to five found Dynamic was among almost 30 providers that mismanaged and misspent a combined $42 million over the last ten years.
There are a few out there that see taxpayer funds as their own ATMs and they've been abusing it," said Kenrick Sifontes, an audit manager with the comptroller's office.
In April of this year, following the comptroller's audit, the State Department of Education removed Dynamic from its list of preschool programs.
Dynamic's early intervention contract with Orange County was also terminated.
Robin Seccafico didn't return multiple calls from Fox 5. Her attorney told us she has been in touch with everyone who is owed money, but the educators dispute that.
"It's very frustrating that the state, who authorized and approved us, has been so unsupportive in helping us get paid for the services we provided," said Voyko.
While the Office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tells Fox 5 they looked into the educators' claim, they ultimately decided not to intervene.
The women are not giving up their fight to get paid and have state Assemblyman Kieran Lolar on their side.
"The state should be more accountable, those are your tax dollars, those are my tax dollars," Lolar said.
The women ultimately want to get paid but they also want more oversight so that the early intervention program, designed to help the most vulnerable, isn't abused.
The office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is now auditing how the health department administers early intervention programs like Dynamic.
Fox 5 reached out to the health department multiple times over the last month but they did not respond.