Teen writers petition for their pay; Coakley steps in
May. 15, 2014
State Attorney General Martha Coakley has fined former Enterteenment Magazine owner Wallis Amanda Mills $17,000 in penalties and restitution payments after receiving a complaint from Teens Lead at Work, a division of the Dorchester-based Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). According to the complaint, Mills did not pay dozens of teenagers who wrote for her magazines some $100,000 in scholarship money that she had promised them.
“I’m glad the attorney general’s office acted fairly expeditiously,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb in an interview on Friday. “I think they took it seriously and recognized that for years these young people were falsely made promises of compensation.”
Mills did not return the Reporter’s call asking for comment.
Just over $11,000 of the fine will go toward restitution of three Massachusetts residents who worked for the magazine, according to Grant Woodman, a spokesman for Coakley’s office. One of them, Adaeze Nduaguba, hails from Dorchester. The 18-year-old freshman at Dartmouth College wrote for Enterteenment during her sophomore through senior years at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science in Roxbury. Mills owes her $3,700, she told the Reporter on Friday.
Ndfuaguba said she enjoyed writing and researching for her column – a regular feature about celebrity gossip – but found it discouraging that Mills made promises she did not deliver on. One such promise was to send columnists out to special events, like sportswriters to the Super Bowl or fashion writers to New York Fashion Week. fashion writers. “She made a promise that it could be anywhere in the US and she would fly us there,” Nduaguba said. “That never happened.”
The teen’s first inkling that she would not get paid came late last year when she was contacted by a former Enterteenment columnist whose parents had done research on Mills and found a fraud report about her on the consumer advocate website ripoffreport.com. And Nduaguba never did get paid.
Teens Lead at Work became aware of the issue through a former Enterteenment writer from Virginia who wished to remain anonymous but had been searching for help in getting paid, according to Goldstein-Gelb, who added that teenage peer leaders worked to contact all the people affected.
Tiana Golding, a peer leader at Teens Lead at Work, said on Friday that Enterteenment had hired more than 40 teens over the last seven years to write articles and that none had received the scholarships they had been promised. The scholarships were advertised to be as much as $5,000, according to a statement by Goldstein-Gelb. While the three writers from Massachusetts were awarded money owed to them, that leaves dozens of others from out of state without their earnings, Golding said. Some have already graduated from college, meaning the scholarships have ceased to be relevant. “I hope that all of them and not only the ones in Massachusetts get some kind of closure with the case,” Golding said. “I just want them to get their money.”
Coakley spokesman Woodman said he had no comment when asked if his office was considering imposing additional fines. The office issued the active citations on May 1, and Mills has 21 days to pay what she owes, he said.
For her part, Golding, who is a junior at the Academy of the Pacific Rim charter public school in Hyde Park, said she helped to get the word out by contacting local media and assisting with filing a complaint to Coakley’s office. “It was interesting to think that something like this was going on in Boston and to be a part of it and help the teens,” Golding said.