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Clock Ticking on Anne Carlson Center Lawsuit

Sept. 30, 2004 – The V.I. government has until Monday to respond to a suit filed by the Anne Carlson Center for Children in Jamestown, N.D., over the Education Department's failure to pay $722,000 owed since July 2002 for services to three Virgin Islands children.
If the government doesn't pay up, the center may be forced to send home the two children currently in residence.
"We're reserving that right," Anne Carlson Center spokesman Doris Cooper said Thursday.
She said the Education Department's failure to pay its bill was on the agenda for a Thursday board meeting.
The center provides residential, therapeutic and educational services to children and young adults with physical, mental and health impairments. Howell said the center has accepted a total of 10 children from the Virgin Islands since 1982.
"In our 22-year relationship with the V.I. government, we have never had such an extended lapse in payment and unwillingness by the government to make good on legally-binding contracts entered into in good faith," the center's chief executive officer, Dan Howell, said in a news release.
Of the three children covered under the $722,000 bill, only one remains in residence. Cooper said the second one reached the age of 21 and was no longer eligible for the Education Department program, and the third was only at the center for a short time.
The second child still in residence arrived in May. Cooper wasn't sure if the government had paid that bill.
Cooper said that Howell flew to the territory last week to keep an appointment with Education Commissioner Noreen Michael.
"He was told she chose not to meet with him," Cooper said.
Michael did not return a phone call requesting comment.
Howell said the center made 30 attempts to collect the money owned by the V.I. government.
Meanwhile, Human Services Commissioner Sedonie Halbert sent out a press release on Thursday disavowing any responsibility for the problem.
She said that Human Services is involved with the Education Department's Special Education Division for students who reach age 21 and are too old for the programs like those at the Anne Carlson Center. However, she said Human Services has no legal authority or jurisdictional responsibility for the education of children up to age 21.
Halbert did not return a phone call requesting comment.
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