BRADENTON — A dozen teachers and other employees have filed a joint lawsuit against a local prep school owner for more than $245,000 in unpaid wages.
The plaintiffs claim they worked for Bradenton Preparatory Academy from January through August of this year, and that defendant Hendrik Lamprecht had control over the private school’s funds including payroll and bank accounts. During that time, many of them only received three paychecks, said Cheryl Gaynor, one of 12 plaintiffs named in the lawsuit.
“The last paycheck I received came in April, but it was in arrears for a Feb. 15 check,” Gaynor said Monday.
Bradenton Prep lost its west Bradenton campus to foreclosure in July. Shortly after Lamprecht created a new school, Prep Learning Academy LLC, from the ashes of Bradenton Prep. He took teachers and students from the old school with plans to move them into a leased Cortez Road storefront about a mile down the road.
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On Monday, both Lamprecht and his attorney called the suit baseless.
“They were working for the old company. My own teachers are paid,” said Lamprecht, now chief executive officer of The Prep, being operated out of the leased storefront where construction is under way to accommodate about 100 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Construction is expected to be completed sometime next week, Lamprecht said.
For now, the students are being taught inside a Baptist church off State Road 64 as he awaits county approval to move students into the new facility, he said. County officials say that could take about two months.
“The interesting thing (about the most recent suit) is they sued him individually, but there is absolutely no liability on his part,” said Edwin Mulock, Lamprecht’s lawyer. “The contracts were with The Children’s Place Inc. He started up his own company. When those obligations were incurred, he was not the owner. It was still in The Children’s Place’s name.”
But Lamprecht was an investor in The Children’s Place and served as president and treasurer from Oct. 15, 2009 to March 8, 2010, according to corporation papers filed with the state.
Tommy Meyer, the Sarasota-based attorney who filed the 29-page suit on behalf of the plaintiffs Friday in Manatee County court, would not comment on Lamprecht’s contention. But he did say his clients deserve to be compensated.
“They worked very hard and cared about the kids, making sure they were provided an education while they sacrificed and were not paid,” Meyer said.
When the teachers alerted the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Board in March, Gaynor said, they were told there was nothing that could be done because the school did not have a union.
“Private school teachers are unprotected,” she said. “We had no recourse when we called. This (lawsuit) was to stand up for our rights because we did everything we needed to do. We all worked and deserve our money.”
This is not the first time Lamprecht has been sued for allegedly not paying an employee.
Bradenton Prep’s former head football coach Joe Hammond sued him last month, claiming he’s owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid salary and for a private loan to the school. Other financial problems with the former and new school include more than $1.1 million in IRS tax liens, creditors filing suits over unpaid bills, leased vehicles repossessed by lenders and state education officials attempting to suspend the school’s eligibility for public scholarship money.
All those who filed suit have found work elsewhere except for two teachers — Dominic Donatucci, who taught high school math and is retired, and Rachel McCurtain, who taught middle school English. Her husband recently got a job out of the county and she is waiting until they move to seek employment.
The other plaintiffs are Mary Conway, Elizabeth Davies, David Ditucci, Leslie Grover, Daniel Oryschak, Francisco Ramierz, Christopher Rosenke, Keith Russo and Frank Salemi.
On Monday, Gaynor estimated another half-dozen teachers and staff members at the former school were also not paid in full.
“I don’t know what the other people are doing, but I hope it’s something and not writing it off,” Gaynor said.