Friday, March 26, 1999

Job training
firm denies scam

Paradigm Hawaii School
claims it was asked to
cheat by the city

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


An official with Paradigm Hawaii School is disputing accusations that the company accepted money from the city for clients never given instruction.

Paradigm director Monday McLain said yesterday the city Department of Community Services asked for free classes in exchange for a contract.

Manny Valbuena, deputy director of community services, denied that the city made such an offer.

Community services officials said Wednesday that internal city auditors are reviewing whether Paradigm had accepted funding from the city to teach basic job skills for two of its WorkHawaii program clients without having done the work.

McLain said she wrote to WorkHawaii Feb. 26 stating that the school would credit the city for the tuitions of two people who had not attended classes. Valbuena told reporters the city never received the letter, noting that WorkHawaii sent three letters seeking reimbursement in November, December and February but received no reply.

WorkHawaii is a federally funded city program designed to give disadvantaged and unemployed people job training skills. Paradigm teaches basic job skills and computer training courses.

McLain, a WorkHawaii employee until last November, said she was shocked when reporters called her asking about the allegations. The school had done business with the city from the time it opened last July, she said.

The city had a contract with Paradigm to train up to 21 people at $1,154 each. The program runs 120 hours over six weeks.

McLain said Paradigm cut ties with the city after WorkHawaii officials suggested "free training" be given to some of its employees in exchange for a contract for computer technology and engineering classes.

"In spite of their threats that we would be frozen out of the business of training people, we continued to refuse to enter into a collusion partnership with WorkHawaii," McLain said.

Valbuena said McLain would not reveal the names of the WorkHawaii employees she alleges approached her for the favors.

"These are basically all allegations," Valbuena said.

Valbuena said the city chose to stop sending clients to Paradigm Hawaii pending resolution of the money dispute, not vice-versa.

Councilman Duke Bainum, who raised questions about the Community Services Department on Wednesday, said he wants a closer look at WorkHawaii's finances.

"I plan to ask the Budget Committee for additional data such as travel information and records of equipment purchases," he said.

Council Budget Chairman John Henry Felix said he will visit the Community Services Department and WorkHawaii offices, at 715 S. King St., on April 8.

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