Berkeley day-care owner loses license following misdemeanor convictions

2530 Matthews St., Berkeley, CA./File

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A Berkeley day-care owner has lost her license following misdemeanor convictions of carrying a concealed weapon and driving under the influence in El Cerrito.

Tanya Comminey, 49, operated Bright Morning Star Daycare on Mathews Street for more than 20 years and served children ranging from infants to preschoolers. She was arrested twice in December 2009 and eventually served 30 days in jail, according to Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick.

After violations were identified at the day care, Comminey was granted a three-year probationary license in 2008. The two convictions resulted in the revocation of that license in May, but when an employee from the Department of Social Services made an unannounced visit on May 24, she found five infants and three preschool children present in the home. Comminey claimed that three of them belonged to family members and that five were the children of friends.

A report from the department states that the day care sign outside had not been removed. A subsequent visit found only one child on the premises, who Comminey said was her niece.

According to Oscar Ramirez, public information officer for the Department of Social Services in Sacramento, the department decided to take further action following the two arrests.

“She does have appeal rights,” he said, but the day care currently remains closed.

Prior violations at the day care go back to 1997, when an inspection found that there was no working bathroom sink. In 2006, Comminey was found to be using the kitchen stove to heat the house, and Comminey’s license was revoked later that year after she failed to obtain criminal record and child abuse index clearances for two employees working at the day care. Comminey appealed in Alameda County Superior Court and was eventually issued a probationary license.

During several follow-up visits from a social services employee in 2006, Comminey reportedly became verbally abusive, “screaming at the top of her lungs” and saying that she was “tired of this shit.” The report also states that she threatened the employee and demanded she leave, telling her, “Watch how you talk; watch how you walk.” Comminey also yelled, “Take Satan with you,” as the employee was leaving.

The confrontation occurred while children were on the premises, according to the report, and Comminey also refused to display a copy of the report in a place where parents of children could see it.

Whether Comminey actually resided in the home day-care center also became an issue in 2007 when it was discovered that she reportedly went “back and forth” between Berkeley and a house she owns in Rodeo. A report following an inspection of the day-care center stated that the findings were “inconsistent with someone living in the house.” The license for in-home day cares require owners to live on premises.

Additional violations were identified in November 2010, when an inspector found that Comminey failed to have appropriate child safety restraints when transporting children in the back of her vehicle. In February 2011, the home was also found to have had a broken smoke alarm and no fire extinguisher, and children had access to a crawl space and various medical items.

The day care’s closure came as a surprise to neighbors, who said they had never witnessed anything that would be cause for concern.

As of Monday afternoon, the day care’s sign outside the home had been removed.