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Questions raised over Henrico daycare workers’ checks

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - What happened behind the scenes at an East End daycare center in the days leading up to its sudden closure?

The Academy For Kid had been cited for repeated state violations from the Department of Social Services.

In a sit down interview, the woman who ran the day to day operations at the center, said she should have seen the end coming.

Margaret Szabo, the daycare's assistant director, said the last few weeks were extremely tough on her and other workers. [REALTED: Daycare Owner: Not only one to blame for bankruptcy]

“Just not having enough funds to run the day to day operations. We had employees who had to chip in to buy food for the kids, milk, gas," said Szabo.

Owners told CBS 6 News' Shelby Brown Friday that they agonized over shutting down the center, but said financially they just weren’t able to stay afloat.

In fact, the owners said they were bogged down with delinquent accounts and ended up in bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy issues led to a freeze on the daycare’s bank account -- and at one point -- caused checks to bounce for a few employees. But then that was cleared up and they were paid.

Phil Griffin also said workers were reimbursed for the rare occasions when they spent their own money on the center.

Szabo said she was aware that the Department of Social Services issued a notice of intent to deny an operating permit in January. But the center appealed and she believed things would be ok.

“I was told you could run the center for like two years during the appeal process because the process was very long. So when people asked me if they needed to find another child care center I would say 'no.' I feel bad for that,” explained Szabo.

When Academy For Kids shut down, more than 130 children were displaced and nearly 30 employees were left without a month’s paycheck.

This week Szabo said relief came when Fed Ex delivered the checks to the center. Some employees were there when the package arrived and she tells us a worker signed for them.

Szabo said she later distributed the checks to employees, like she has done in the past.

“As soon as I said I have your paychecks people were screaming, ecstatic, thrilled. It made everything else a little more bearable” she said.

However, now there’s a flap over how the workers got paid.

“Fed Ex should have never left the checks at a business that was obviously closed. The checks were stolen. No one was authorized to sign for or give out the paychecks. The box was addressed to my wife and myself,” Griffin explained.

Additionally, he said the paychecks in the box technically didn’t belong to him or his wife anymore, but a bankruptcy trustee. He says that entity is required to pay off all the daycare center’s creditors.

Szabo says she was never told by the owners not to give out the paychecks. She said she did what she thought was right. .

"It wasn’t done for any other reason than to see that the workers were ok," said Szabo. "They earned this.”