by Joe Schwartz
HILLSBOROUGH — The seven Children’s University of Chapel Hill teachers who sued owner Lisa McEntyre for unpaid wages won rulings in their favor Tuesday. Whether they’ll receive money is an entirely different story.
“A judgment is a piece of paper; it means nothing other than it a piece of paper saying she owes the money. It doesn’t force her to pay a dime. It’s there; it’s on the record,” said Magistrate John Woodson, who presided over the Small Claims Court.
“What you’ve told me gives me rise to believe you might want to talk about a criminal action. You might want to talk with the police department.”
Neither McEntyre, who closed the day care suddenly on March 18, nor her attorney, Greg DeWitt, attended court. Defendants are not required to be present at civil court, and the case can go on without them. She now has 10 days to appeal the rulings, which range from $980 to $5,000 each. If she does, a District Court judge will hear the cases.
Teachers sat side by side, filling the first three left side benches as they faced the magistrate. The right side of the courtroom was barren by the time their cases were heard, an hour and a half into the Small Claims Court session.
After addressing six other matters ranging from a dispute on home care to a cracked bumper, Woodson looked to the teachers.
“And that brings me to the other half of my docket,” he said.
They erupted in nervous laughter. Woodson put his face in his palms.
“Ms. McEntyre does not see fit to avail herself of being here,” he said, stating the obvious.
Woodson had continued the cases from last week because McEntyre did not have five days to respond to the warrants. This time he went forward.
He heard from all seven teachers, each with similar tales about receiving worthless paychecks that were that were never made up and they had the documents to prove it.
“Along with everybody else, I was flimflammed,” said Sadie Dula, who is owed $2,334.99 for four missed paychecks in February and March.
“I worked hard. I was there daily. I was a dependable worker. I had a good rapport with the staff, the parents, the children; I was there because of my love for children. …I’m very much for children, what I’m not for is the way she worked us like suckers and did not pay us.”
Woodson said the cases hinged on whether McEntyre or CUCH Inc., the corporation she started, should be sued. Under the law, the person who signs checks on behalf of a corporation cannot be held liable. However, the person can be held responsible if they write a check while knowing there isn’t money in the bank to cover it.
The teachers provided a printed letter that appears to be from McEntyre stating that she was not a corporation, which satisfied the magistrate.
“They made their case. They had to show me they were owed money, and I think they did,” Woodson said. “The issue of being a corporation was not raised by the defendant. She was not here.”