Extra Extra : April 2005

Golf resort wants increased funding after significant losses

Penny Brown Roberts of the Baton Rouge Advocate used public records to show that "developers of a swanky Texas golf resort have burned through nearly $30 million in a line of credit from Louisiana's police retirement system and now say they need more money to make good on promised sales." The pension system has contributed nearly $27 million to the project, called Boot Ranch, but so far it has not seen any evidence that any houses have been built or memberships sold.

Medicare schemes may have cost taxpayers millions

Erin McCormick of the San Francisco Chronicle investigated Medicare scams dealing with elderly immigrants. What the Chronicle discovered were two scams: the first was a sleep clinic, which billed Medicare for tests that were over-billed and unnecessary. The second scam, the electronic wheelchair scam, dealt with Medicare recipients receiving free motorized scooters. In both scams the Medicare recipients were given $100 for going to the clinics and recruiters were given $50 for each person they brought with them to the clinics. The story breaks down each scam, how they worked, and provides examples of what was going on. The second ... Read more ...

Fired officers earning compensation during long appeals

John Diedrich of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that since 1994, "Milwaukee has paid more than $2.1 million in pay and benefits to 30 fired officers who were not reinstated, including six whose cases were still pending as of Friday." Fired officers don't have to repay wages earned while they appeal their firings. Milwaukee firefighters, in contrast, lose their pay while on appeal and get back pay if they are reinstated.

Radiologist's long hours invoke suspicion

Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber of the Los Angeles Times used California's Public Records Act to show that "Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center paid more than $1.3 million over the last year for the services of a radiologist who said he worked an average of 20 hours a day, seven days a week, during one recent six-month stretch." Supervisors signed off on the employee's timesheets even when they indicated working more than 20 hours a day at the facility.

Felony, not petty criminals fill jail

Karen E. Crummy of The Denver Post analyzed county data to find that "most of the inmates crammed into the Denver County Jail are accused of robbery, burglary, selling drugs and even violent assaults. Relatively few of them are the drunken drivers and petty drug users whom people often associate with county jail." Local residents will vote in May on building a new jail.

Parolees living in state nursing homes

Chris Fusco and Lori Rackl of the Chicago Sun-Times used state documents to show that sixty-one criminals on parole from the state's prison system are living in 37 nursing homes alongside vulnerable people who have virtually no way of knowing they're there. "The Sun-Times found an example of this in southwest suburban Bridgeview at Midway Neurological & Rehab Center, formerly called Century Village. Among the 404-bed facility's residents is Louis White, 35, a convicted second-degree murderer who also was convicted of sexually abusing a girl in 1999." The story provides a graphic detailing the number of offenders in ... Read more ...

County workers cashing in on overtime

Mickey Ciokajlo and Todd Lighty of the Chicago Tribune used Cook County payroll data to find that "more than 100 county workers were each paid $50,000 or more in overtime last year, with one industrious nurse pulling down $187,500 in extra pay. Oak Forest Hospital nurse Usha Patel, who earned the overtime on top of her regular $92,700 salary, also led county employees in overtime pay in 1996, when the Tribune last totaled up the tab." Overtime spending by the county has more than doubled during the past eight years. Nearly 60 employees, many in health-related jobs ... Read more ...

City officials spending with little oversight

Jim Davis of The Fresno Bee used city expense reports to show that "Fresno Mayor Alan Autry and the City Council spent tens of thousands of dollars in the past four years on meals, hotel bills and other expenses with little oversight and less public debate." Autry had the city pay for 422 business meals in the first 11 months of 2004, records show. "The mayor and council members rarely turn in receipts when asking to be reimbursed for meals. The city doesn't require receipts for meals that cost less than $9 for breakfast, $14 for lunch and $19 ... Read more ...

City insiders' tickets dismissed at much higher rate than most

Patrick Lakamp of The Buffalo News analyzed 24,000 parking ticket hearings, finding that most Buffalo residents pay the majority of their fines, whereas as a select few city insiders get their fines dismissed. "They just write letters to the city's parking enforcement director. Two-thirds of the time, their tickets go away." A deputy commissioner of jurors saved $1,205 when 95 percent of his contested fines were waived. The story also includes a sidebar detailing the city's biggest benefactor Paul G. Gaughan, deputy commissioner of jurors in Erie County.

FEMA contracts with criminals

Megan O'Matz and Sally Kestin of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found that "government inspectors entrusted to enter disaster victims' homes and verify damage claims include criminals with records for embezzlement, drug dealing and robbery." The paper found the names of more than 100 inspectors for the Federal Emergency Management Agency through public and confidential sources; 30 had criminal records. "The story is the latest in the paper's investigation into FEMA's mismanagement of hurricane relief funds. Read more about the story in the upcoming May ... Read more ...