Every year more than 100,000 people visit the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary along Indian Shores in Pinellas County.
The facility has a unique location and admission is free. These days however, tourists aren't the only ones visiting the Sanctuary.
Federal officials with the United States Department of Labor have been on site checking into possible labor law violations.
A handful of former employees, including Robin Vergara, claim the organization didn't pay them for their work.
"It is the beach's dirty little secret," Vergara said on Saturday. "What I can attest to is that I went six weeks without pay while I was [working] there."
Others say mismanagement has plagued SSS for several years. Among the claims levied some employees have reported their health insurance was dropped without notice.
Charitynavigator.org - an independent evaluator of such organizations – recently gave the Sanctuary a low mark of 1 out of a possible 4.
Vergara says an investigation of the group is long overdue.
"Currently there's no transparency there," he says. "[There's] no independent board there; everything is shrouded in secrecy."
Ralph Heath, SSS's executive director, says the claims are baseless. He says the federal investigation has been ‘taken care of.'
Despite issues with management, Vergara still supports the staff and their mission to help birds in need. Unfortunately he says things may be getting worse instead of better.
Vergara: "It probably needs to die before it can be resurrected."
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