Cash-strapped Tindley sued over staffing agency fee

Evidence of financial troubles continues to mount for the cash-strapped, homegrown charter school group Tindley Accelerated Schools Inc.

Staffing company Pinnacle Partners Inc. has sued Tindley for failing to pay its $15,000 finder's fee for placing a staff accountant with the charter group despite “repeated promises of payment,” according to the suit filed Dec. 22 in Marion County Superior Court.

Tindley hired the accountant in June at a salary of $60,000, according to the lawsuit. The staffing company alleges that Tindley has not paid the agency for its services, despite being invoiced June 10.

“Our hope is they pay it sooner rather than later,” said Rubin & Levin attorney Christine Hickey, Pinnacle’s lawyer.

Tindley CEO and Chancellor Marcus Robinson said Monday that he did not know about the lawsuit from Pinnacle Partners and wasn’t “exactly sure” what the company did for the group.

“I’m not aware of that personally,” Robinson said.

IBJ reported in December that Tindley Accelerated Schools was in financial trouble after missing ambitious enrollment targets, creating a $2.8 million revenue shortfall. Tindley has had to eliminate positions and seek loans.

Meanwhile, Robinson’s questionable spending—including using the Tindley credit card to fly first-class and stay in five-star hotels—raised eyebrows across the organization.

Mayor Joe Hogsett, whose office has authority to regulate the Tindley schools, told IBJ last week that the revelations about Robinson’s spending were “inappropriate and not acceptable.”

“Our tax dollars ought be going to educate our kids, not for individuals whether it be the head of a charter school or whether it be the mayor flying around the country on unnecessary and perhaps wasteful junkets,” Hogsett said. “As a former federal prosecutor, I find it critical that people in positions of public trust are held accountable at all times. We vest in them a higher standard. Don’t aspire to hold and protect the public’s trust only to turn around and violate it.”

Robinson said the charter school group is trying to work through financial troubles. He’s also advocating that the Indiana General Assembly allocate more money to charter schools.

“I feel like we thought Tindley could grow its way out of precarious financing,” Robinson said Monday. “We thought we could fundraise ourselves out of that issue. What we’re coming to terms with now is there has to be something fundamentally different about how we support charter schools.”

Tindley is a fast-growing charter network that operates six schools in Indianapolis and has been repeatedly praised publicly by federal, state and local leaders for its academic achievements.

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