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Class Action Lawsuit Information

Class Action Lawsuit Information

Postby EnoughIsEnough » Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:34 am

http://www.thedahloneganugget.com/artic ... /01hla.txt


Hidden Lake Academy faces class action law suit
By Matt Aiken
Published: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 10:32 AM EDT
A federal class action lawsuit accusing Hidden Lake Academy of the “tragic mistreatment of troubled teenage students and families” was filed in the Gainesville branch of the United States District Court last Monday.

The civil action suit, filed by a team of Atlanta-based lawyers representing the families of two former students, centers around a laundry list of accusations against the therapeutic boarding school and its founder Dr. Leonard Buccellato.

Hidden Lake Academy is a SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accredited boarding school which provides therapy for more than 150 students. The school is located off Camp Wahsega Road and was established in 1994.

On Sept. 11, the legal team of Gorby, Reeves, & Peters brought the operation of the establishment into question as it portrayed the school as an unsafe facility manned mostly by uncertified employees.

As a result, much of the lawsuit revolves around Hidden Lake's alleged misrepresentation of itself through its parent handbook and official Web site.

“HLA's zeal to cut corners and misrepresent itself stems from the fact that it is run in large part for the personal enrichment of its founder, defendant Buccellato,” the suit states.

One of the more serious accusations would appear to be HLA's alleged knowing introduction of “violent and severely disturbed students” into the school population, despite assurances to the contrary.

Included in the plaintiffs' complaint is an apparent internal e-mail, dated Feb. 24, 2006, which was reportedly sent by former Admissions Director Clarke Poole to eventual Admissions Director Nicole Fuglsang as he pointed out the instability of particular students.

“There is a fairly long list of students whose appropriateness I have questioned, especially in the last year or so,” the e-mail states.

The author goes on to point out students allegedly admitted against his recommendation and goes so far as to liken one of these students to Hannibal Lecter.

“He should have been in a padded cell in a psychiatric prison, and we knew it going in,” wrote the author. “It's difficult to distinguish his psychological evaluation, which was done by Len Buccellato and [name intentionally deleted in the suit] from that of Hannibal Lecter's.”

Poole reportedly left Hidden Lake Academy soon after the letter was sent.

“Hidden Lake's reluctance to reject court-ordered, severely disturbed and violent students stems from the fact that it is highly profitable to admit such students,” the complaint states.

The suit goes on to allege that the inclusion of some of these students led to several violent altercations and attacks on other students, one of which resulted in an investigation by the Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office.

However, Capt. Jason Stover with the sheriff's office said he had no record of such an investigation.

According to the suit, tuition at the boarding school runs $5,900 per month. Students are expected to stay for the duration of the program, which can run 17 to 21 months.

According to the suit, parents must put down a hefty deposit as well.

Since, according to the suit, the product is not what was advertised, parents and their children are bound to a shoddy deal, leaving parents with the predicament of leaving their child at the school or removing them and forfeiting the deposit.

“Nevertheless, despite the fact that parents incur huge educational and financial costs for pulling out their children before graduation, more than fifty percent of HLA's students during the Class Period - nearly 400 families total - have failed to graduate from HLA, and instead left the program prematurely,” the suit states.

The suit then goes on to question the accreditation of HLA staff members.

“Throughout the Class Period [of 2000 to the present] a large number and, at certain times, an overwhelming majority, of HLA's teachers have not been certified, while a sizable number of the counseling staff lack bachelor's or master's degrees in areas related to social work, counseling, or psychology, and have not been clinically trained in counseling or social work,” the complaint states.

The Hidden Lake Academy Web site claims that “teaching faculty at HLA hold a Bachelor to a Doctorate level degree in education.”

The complaint also alleges that employee Clay Erickson has taken the position of Director of Addiction Services despite having his license revoked by the Washington State Medical Disciplinary Board in 1993. The suit claims the suspension was due to “his alleged alcoholism and abuse of controlled prescription drugs.”

The plaintiffs also claim that HLA failed to consistently employ sufficient medical staff while also neglecting to deliver on the advertised promise of providing a full-time special education teacher.

“HLA has also during the Class Period only rarely employed a licensed learning disability specialist and within the past several months or longer has not employed a registered or properly licensed nurse,” the suit states.

“Hidden Lake also provides students with deficient medical supervision, allowing unlicensed staff such as secretaries and pharmaceutical technicians who are unsupervised by a nurse or proper medical authority to dispense prescription medication to students.”

The complaint goes on to allege that HLA students who have been placed on restrictions have been utilized to clear land for future building projects.

“Buccellato's use of students to do HLA manual labor was similarly not disclosed to families at the time they entered into their enrollment contracts,” states the complaint. “Further, Defendants' misuse of such students to do manual labor violates countless federal and state labor regulations.”

HLA is also accused of routinely performing strip searches on students after they return to campus following home visits. According to the plaintiff, this detail is not sufficiently advertised by the school.

The plaintiffs also allege that HLA often charges undisclosed extra fees despite the reported assurance that tuition is all-inclusive.

These reported extra charges range from marked-up toiletries purchases to exorbitant medical fees.

“Incredibly, HLA even overcharges students for vaccinations and shots, imposing a more than 50 percent mark-up for flu shots and $90 for a meningitis shot that costs significantly less,” the suit states.

“During the Class Period alone, these undisclosed overcharges have reportedly totaled some $800,000-$1,000,000 all of which amounted to pure profit to HLA,” the complaint states.

A myriad of accusations are also directed at Buccellato himself, who is accused of using school funds and employees for his own personal use.

“Buccellato uses HLA Inc. as his personal bank and employment agency by, among other things: billing to it significant amounts of his personal expenses, including extravagant dinners, gifts to friends and family, and lavish vacations totaling thousands of dollars; using school maintenance staff to maintain and repair personal rental properties; having the school pay his personal taxes and service his loan payments; arranging for present or former school therapists, such as Dr. Steven Taylor and Dr. Brad Carpenter, to work up to four days a week in his private psychology practice; enlisting school employees to work part-time at St. Francis Day School, a school that Buccellato also helps operate; and getting the school's food service provider to privately cater personal affairs, which he then bills to the school,” the suit states.

Buccellato is also accused of forging the name of his CEO, CFO, and Secretary Kenneth Spooner on official documents as well as bribing third party educational consultants in order to receive positive recommendations.

“Realizing the significant role consultants play in the school selection process, Buccellato showers consultants with gifts and other forms of undisclosed compensation,” the suit states.

The plaintiffs have also accused Buccellato of misappropriating donations that were intended to build a campus chapel.

“Buccellato has taken funds directly from the Student Chapel Fund program for his own personal use,” the complaint states.

Buccellato could not be reached for comment. Instead The Nugget was contacted by HLA's defense team of Quirk & Quirk.

Martin Quirk contended that the accusations against Hidden Lake Academy are merely the result of disgruntled parents who, after withdrawing their children prior to completion of the program, are now reluctant to forfeit their deposit. These fees, he added, are a normal part of such schools.

“A couple of parents that withdrew their children didn't like that provision, which they had signed,” said Quirk. “And apparently blew it way out of proportion.”

The first set of unidentified plaintiffs are residents of Florida whose child was enrolled at HLA November 2004 to May 2005. During this time they reportedly paid $63,268, including a non-refunded deposit of $14,550.

The other set of plaintiffs are current residents of Pennsylvania. Their child was at Hidden Lake February 2005 to August 2006. During this time period they reportedly paid $102,727, including a non-refunded deposit of $14,709. Both sets of plaintiffs pulled their children from the program three months prior to their expected graduation dates.

According to the complaint, this suit could open the door for hundreds of families to join in the class action, the damages of which could reach more than $5 million.

The legal group of Gorby, Reeves, & Peters, which declined to comment for this story, has demanded a trial by jury.

Hidden Lake Academy has 20 days from the initial filing of this complaint to respond to the suit.

“The school is going to vigorously defend it,” responded Quirk. “I think the justice system will prevail.”
EnoughIsEnough
 
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HLA's Response

Postby EnoughIsEnough » Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:45 am

http://www.thedahloneganugget.com/artic ... 20suit.txt

Hidden Lake responds to lawsuit
By Matt Aiken
Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2006 10:25 AM EST

Nearly two months after being hit with an inflammatory lawsuit, Hidden Lake Academy has returned fire with a 40-page counterclaim that “vigorously denies” all accusations.

The original allegations were leveled on Sept. 11 when a legal team representing the families of two former students, issued a strongly worded potential class-action lawsuit which accused the school and its founder Dr. Len Buccellato of a myriad of ethical oversights. Such allegations included the alleged misappropriation of funds and the knowing acceptance of “violent” and “disturbed” children.

Last week, Hidden Lake Academy's law team of King & Spalding filed a counterclaim in the Gainesville branch of the United States District Court which denied every accusation of wrong doing and, in turn, requested a dismissal of the plaintiff's case.

“HLA vigorously denies that it has committed any of the misconduct alleged in the Complaint,” reads the suit.

According to the original complaint, this suit could open the door for hundreds of additional families to join in the possible mutli-million dollar class action.

In response, the counterclaim dissects the lawsuit line by line and describes HLA as a school that “provides a caring and supporting environment through a comprehensive program of 17-21 months that blends therapy, counseling, and education.”

The counterclaim describes all allegations as “groundless” and begins by defending the school's selection of students.

“HLA states that it has never intentionally enrolled any ‘violent' or ‘severely disturbed” students, as these are not the types of students that HLA serves,” reads the document.

In the complaint, this particular accusation was accompanied with a copy of an apparent internal e-mail which was sent by then senior Admissions Coordinator Clark Poole to eventual Admissions Director Nicole Fuglsang as he expressed concern over the mental state of certain students. In one line he compared a particular student to an infamous movie villain.

“He should have been in a padded cell in a psychiatric prison, and we knew it going in,” reads the e-mail. “It's difficult to distinguish his psychological evaluation, which was done by Len Buccellato and [name intentionally deleted] from that of Hannibal Lecter's.”

In response the counterclaim asserts that Poole was unfit to make such an observation.

“HLA further states that Clark Poole has no psychological training and is thus not qualified to make any medical judgments,” reads the response.

The counterclaim continues as it “specifically denies that Dr. Buccellato referred a student with the psychological profile of ‘Hannibal Lecter' to HLA.”

A large share of the accusations are leveled against Buccellato himself, who among other allegations was accused of bribing third party educational consultants to encourage positive recommendations and forging the name of his CEO, CFO, and Secretary Kenneth Spooner on official documents.

These accusations are also denied in the counterclaim which goes on to describe Buccellato's treatment of such consultants as honest and forthright.

“It is standard practice in the education industry for schools to pay for the traveling expenses of educational consultants and, on occasion, their family members, and there is nothing ‘ethically questionable' about such practices,” reads the document.

“Dr. Buccellato has never signed a document on Mr. Spooner's behalf without Mr. Spooner's full consent and agreement,” continues the counterclaim.

Additional accusations in the complaint also portrayed HLA as a facility which is manned by an “overwhelming majority” of uncertified and under-qualified staff.

HLA addressed this accusation as well.

“The fact is HLA's teachers have fully complied with the requirements established by the Southern Association of College and School and the Georgia Accrediting Commission,” responds the counterclaim.

HLA's counterclaim goes on to deny the additional allegation that the school failed to consistently employ a certified learning disability specialist.

HLA employee Clay Erickson also drew fire in the suit as he was accused of filling the position of Director of Addiction Services despite reportedly having his license revoked by the Washington State Medical Disciplinary Board in 1993 for “alleged alcoholism and abuse of controlled prescription drugs.”

The document begins by stating that HLA has no obligation to address the allegation directed towards Erickson since they “do not pertain to alleged conduct by HLA and, therefore, do not require a response by HLA.” It is then added that Erickson never acted outside his realm of duty.

“HLA states that Clay Erickson has neither practiced medicine during his tenure at HLA nor intentionally advised parents or students that he is a properly licensed physician,” reads the document.

All further accusations are denounced by the counterclaim which states that “HLA denies each and every allegation contained in the Complaint that is not expressly admitted herein.”

The first set of unidentified plaintiffs in this lawsuit are residents of Florida whose child was enrolled at HLA from Nov. 2004 to May 2005.

During this time they reportedly paid $63,268, including a non-refunded deposit of $14,550.

The other set of plaintiffs are current residents of Pennsylvania. Their child attended Hidden Lake from February 2005 to August 2006. During this time period they reportedly paid $102,727, including a non-refunded deposit of $14,709.

Both sets of plaintiffs pulled their children from the program three months prior to their expected graduation date. The plaintiffs are represented by the law firms of Gorby, Reeves, & Peters and Berger & Montague.

In the counterclaim HLA's law firm asks that these plaintiffs' request for a class action be denied.

The counterclaim then goes on to list a total 30 defenses against the validity of the plaintiffs' complaint. These defenses begin with HLA's reasoning that the complainants haven't actually stated a claim “upon which relief can be granted.”

The document goes on to state that the plaintiffs' request for “unjust enrichment” can't stand because the parents were never promised that the money earned at HLA would be held for their benefit or the benefit of others.

The counterclaim also states that any damages suffered by the plaintiffs were not the result of HLA.
EnoughIsEnough
 
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Re: Class Action Lawsuit Information

Postby Karosev001 » Mon Oct 31, 2016 9:52 am

What is very good, thank you.
Karosev001
 
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Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2016 9:41 am


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