Former day care owner charged with felony theft

Day care closed without reimbusing parents

Former day care owner charged with...

MADISON, Wis. - A former day care owner is facing felony charges after shutting down her service without reimbursing parents.

The Giving Tree closed back in January, and owner Megan Grundahl told parents it was a temporary shut-down to fix a burst pipe. Several weeks and unreturned emails later, the day care never reopened and its license expired.

Now, a criminal complaint alleges that Grundahl over-charged one family over several months of electronic payments, amounting to more than $7,000. According to the complaint, when confronted with the issue, Grundahl agreed to pay back the money but instead charged the family for an additional $8,046, bringing the total owed to about $16,000.

The complaint says months later, Grundahl agreed to write two checks amounting to $14,000 to pay back part of that money, but both checks bounced. Further investigation found Grundahl did not have enough money in her bank account to write those checks. When The Giving Tree closed in January, Grundahl still did not pay back the family for the $16,000 owed.

Cassanda Merboth is another parent impacted by the closure. She says just days before the daycare shut down, she was asked to start paying via electronic deposit, which required payment of one month's services.

"So I had to pay the whole month up ahead in beginning of January, two days before they closed," she said.

Merboth considers herself one of the lucky ones, only out $1,100. Still, she says, it's frustrating.

"After having closed within a couple of dayis of notification, and then never re-opening again, that's going to throw every family into this rut," she said. "Suddenly they just up and leave and not really give you much explanation? That's the worst part."

A new day care has taken The Giving Tree's place on Mammoth Drive. The Kind and Joyful Childcare Center opened back in May. Owner Brenda Van Rossum says she wrote letters to every family impacted by the previous closure and offered them a free week.

"My heart goes out to those families, having to scramble to find child care last minute," she said. "I'm looking forward to be able to provide a different opportunity for them."

Calls for comment to Grundahl's lawyer went unanswered. Grundahl's initial appearance in court is scheduled later this week.

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