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Department of Labor & Industry v. Dean Institute of Technology, Inc.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

March 27, 2014

Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership, Petitioner
v.
Dean Institute of Technology, Inc., Respondent

Argued March 10, 2014.

Appealed from No. 3972. State Agency: Board of Claims.

Beth S. Harris, Assistant Counsel, Harrisburg, for petitioner.

Emily H. Bensinger, Harrisburg, for respondent.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge. OPINION BY JUDGE McCULLOUGH.

OPINION

Page 318

PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.

The Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership (Department) petitions for review of the July 29, 2013 order of the Board of Claims (Board) entering judgment in favor of the Dean Institute of Technology (Dean Tech) with respect to sixty-four of eighty-three disputed invoices. We affirm.

In 2002, Dean Tech, a vocational-technical school, entered into a five-year contract, from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2007 (2002 Master Agreement), with the Department pursuant to the Trade Adjustment

Page 319

Assistance (TAA) program.[1] Under the terms of the 2002 Master Agreement, Dean Tech could enroll new students in TAA funded programs during the first three years of the 2002 Master Agreement, and these students had until June 30, 2007, to complete such training with payment by the Department. The eighty-three disputed invoices at issue are for vocational training provided to displaced workers over a period stretching from January 2003 to December 2004, with the invoices dated February 2003 to January 2005. Under section 4(f) of the 2002 Master Agreement, the deadline for submission of invoices was originally set forth as follows: " [t]he final payment request shall be submitted 30 days prior to the expiration or termination date of the [2002 Master] Agreement and shall be marked 'Final.'" (Board's Findings of Fact Nos. 2, 11-12, 15, 19, 22.)

In 2003, the parties amended the 2002 Master Agreement, effective October 31, 2003 (2003 Amendment).[2] (Board's Finding of Fact No. 29.) In relevant part, the 2003 Amendment shortened the deadline for submission of invoices in order to facilitate reallocation of funds from inactive accounts to pay for other students' training as follows:

The Contractor shall not be paid if invoices are not received within 60 days of the completion of the training, completion of the semester, term or quarter or the end of the month for training provided on a clock hour basis, whichever is applicable. The last invoice for each student shall be marked " Final."

(Board's Finding of Fact No. 30) (emphasis in original).

During the period of February 2003 to January 2005, when the eighty-three disputed invoices were prepared, Dean Tech routinely filled out some invoices (including eighty-one of the eighty-three disputed invoices) on a form different from the forms prescribed by either the 2002 Master Agreement or the 2003 Amendment. The alternate invoice form Dean Tech used for those eighty-one invoices was on Dean Tech letterhead and set forth a different recipient than the ones provided in the 2002 Master Agreement and the 2003 Amendment, a different ZIP code than the one provided in the 2002 Master Agreement and the 2003 Amendment, and failed to specify that the invoices should be sent to the twelfth floor of the Department's building as specified in the 2002 Master Agreement and the 2003 Amendment. Dean Tech sent the invoices to the Department's Office of Employment Security, an

Page 320

entity within the Department that once handled federally funded workforce development and unemployment compensation matters but had been defunct since 1985. Although the eighty-three unpaid invoices were prepared between 2003 to 2005, Dean Tech did not make any inquiry concerning these invoices until 2006, when Richard Ali (Ali), Dean Tech's Director of Education, directed a generalized ...


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