NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A job training program designed to transition veterans into civilian careers in information technology folded two months after it began.
Social Impact Collective (SIC) was launched in November 2016 with financial backing from the city of Norfolk. SIC shut its doors in Dominion Tower abruptly in late January. Trainees, former employees, the city and the office building are all seeking money from the program’s founder and CEO, Anthony Dale.
Local veterans were encouraged when the program was announced last fall. Jahte Fields was 21 and fresh out of the Navy as a corpsman on the USNS Comfort. "After three months, after getting our training we'd be put into the job field of cybersecurity,” he told 10 On Your Side.
Leah Delamarter is the single parent of four teenagers and spent six years in the Navy. Both Delamarter and Fields were looking to start careers in information technology.
“Our prayers were answered,” Delamarter said. “It was amazing, I was excited. I didn't know the stuff but I was excited to learn it.”
The SIC program would provide them paid on the job training at more than $16 an hour, 40 hours a week, but Fields, Delamarter and other trainees tell us that SIC owes them thousands of dollars.
“We got our first check on time, but from there it just went haywire,” Fields said.
The program began November 21 and was supposed to last at least a year, but collapsed after only two months. “It's just a slap in the face, really,” Delamarter said.
The trainees aren't the only ones who say Dale owes them money. He had hired several staff to help run the program. We've contacted three of the former employees.
Two of them won judgments against Dale last week, including one for $25,000.
Delamarter's story was typical of what we heard from five other people. Instead of getting her salary, she'd get excuses. “The payroll company he was using didn't put it through,” Delamarter says Dale told her. “Then, he was going to give us cash, that didn't happen, and then he was going to write us a personal check, and that didn't happen.”
During her time in the Navy, Delamarter was wounded in action chasing pirates. She says she wasn't afraid of going to war with Dale. “I went into his office and I said I wasn't going to leave until I had something because I had to feed my children, and so he did give me some cash,” but Delamarter says Dale still owes her about $1,800 for her paid training.
Fields says he, too kept getting promises from Dale, but not compensation. “He reassured me that it was no problem that we'll get paid and he'll bring it to me, and we never got it and I know Christmas was the worst Christmas ever.”
An attorney for Dominion Tower says the program owes money for back rent on the office space on the 20th floor.
Dale says he'll make good on his debts. We found his phone number from records of his January arrest in Jacksonville, Fl. “We're not going to abdicate our responsibilities. We'll make sure we get these individuals covered.”
The City of Norfolk through its subcontractor Opportunity Inc. gave SIC $23,460 from the Economic Development Authority to help launch the jobs program.
10 On Your Side's investigation uncovered that during the application process, Dale was facing charges of passing a worthless check totaling $10,000 to a Jacksonville car dealer. Jacksonville court officials say Dale has made $5,500 restitution so far.
The SIC program proposal in Norfolk called for Dale to contribute more than $500,000, mostly from private investors. “We had investors pull out, not randomly, but very abruptly,” Dale told us. “That caused us significant challenges.”
Anthony Dale insists he's not making out on the grant money. “I'm not getting enriched by this at all. I'm not generating one single cent from this.... We are fully committed to making sure that anyone that worked for us recovers every single dime that they were promised.”
10 On Your Side asked the city and Opportunity Inc. whether they verified that Dale really had investors. Their response was "You will have to ask Mr. Dale." We did, and he wouldn't tell us.
But why wasn’t that question asked before announcing the program? And had the city and its subcontractor known about the $10,000 bogus check, would that have stopped the grant? The City of Norfolk and Opportunity Inc. responded "We thoroughly vetted the program."
Dale told us he would repay the city nearly $20,000, the remainder of the grant that was not invoiced for program training costs, by March 1, but a city spokeswoman said Wednesday morning in a text to WAVY that they haven't heard from him.
As a result of our investigation, Opportunity Inc. says it is reviewing all policies, forms and contracts for on-the-job training programs to see if changes should be made.
Meanwhile, the veterans who wanted to start new careers are the collateral damage. “I have PTSD really badly,” Delamarter said, “and it literally put me over the edge.”
Comments are closed.