Extra Extra : January 2006

University leader serves on 10 boards

Eleanor Yang of the The San Diego Union-Tribune used calendar records obtained under the California Public Records Act to show that UC San Diego Chancellor, Marye Anne Fox, has served as a director for 10 corporations and nonprofit organizations, while running the university for the past year and a half. Fox spent more than 180 hours attending board meetings — many of them on the East Coast — in the past 12 months. "For all of her outside positions, Fox, 58, an organic chemist, receives compensation that rivals her university salary of $359,000. " In the past year, she received cash and ... Read more ...

Miami transit OT draining county budget

Jack Dolan, Larry Lebowitz and Scott Hiaasen of The Miami Herald analyzed local payroll data to find that “transit overtime pay — which is 1.5 times as high as regular hourly rates and cost taxpayers more than $129 million over the last five years — is a long-standing drain on county funds that has persisted despite decades of promises from county officials to bring it under control.” The paper found dozens of county bus and train operators who double their pay via overtime work.

Kinko's deal costly for Dallas schools

Kent Fischer, Pete Slover and Tawnell D. Hobbs of the The Dallas Morning News used district records to show that a plan by Dallas schools to outsource copying and printing to industry giant Kinko's, started to slash copying and printing expenses by 21 percent, has in fact quadrupled expenses. "Across the entire Dallas Independent School District, copying and printing costs more than doubled. In 2003, the district spent $5.87 million; by 2005 it was spending $12.82 million, according to records obtained by The Dallas Morning News. " The investigation also found the contract obliges schools to lease equipment ... Read more ...

Vulnerable live in Sacramento's flood zones

Phillip Reese of The Sacramento Bee used Census data and maps to report that “more than 150,000 of Sacramento County’s most vulnerable residents — the elderly, the poor and the disabled — live in areas prone to substantial flooding, and local officials acknowledge they don’t know whether they could quickly get them to safe ground.” Those individuals live in areas of the county that could see floods of at least two feet.

Flawed criminal justice system

Fredric N. Tulsky, with staff writers Julie Patel and Mike Zapler, data analyst Griff Palmer and research librarian Leigh Poitinger, of the San Jose Mercury News , reviewed every criminal appeal originating out of Santa Clara County Superior Court for five years to show that the Santa Clara County's criminal justice system is systemically troubled by serious flaws that bias the system in prosecutors' favor and, in the worst cases, lead to outright miscarriages, in a five-day series that was three years in the making. The investigation found that a third of the 727 cases analyzed were marred by some ... Read more ...

City pays millions for bottled water

Cecilia M. Vega of the San Francisco Chronicle used public records to show that San Francisco, owner of a pristine reservoir in the Sierra Nevada with a reputation for producing some of the country's best-tasting tap water, has spent more than $2 million of taxpayers' money in the past 4½ years on bottled water. According to the records, Public Health spent $139,926 on bottled water; the Municipal Railway spent $65,780; and San Francisco International Airport spent $65,670. "During the 2004-2005 fiscal year, which ended June 30, $499,275 went to bottled water and related expenses — a ... Read more ...

Brake plant workers suffer serious work-related health effects

Randy Ludlow of the The Columbus Dispatch reports that nearly five years after more than a quarter of TRW brake plant's 400 workers contracted respiratory illnesses, dozens remain disabled and out of work. Federal investigators concluded the outbreak was workplace-related but did not determine the exact cause. Ludlow reveals that TRW Automotive, a $10 billion conglomerate with headquarters in Livonia, Mich., couldn't have violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards because there aren't any. "Disregarding alarms sounded by its own advisory committee and the occupational arm of the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of ... Read more ...

Loopholes put school bus drivers with violations on roads

Brad Branan of the Tucson Citizen used court records to show that Arizona school bus drivers with criminal records or multiple moving violations are escaping state regulatory enforcement and putting children and other motorists at risk. The investigation found that drivers with criminal records or multiple traffic violations are among the most accident prone at Tucson-area school districts. "A Vail Unified School District driver — one of two school bus drivers to transport students while under the influence of drugs or alcohol last school year — was state certified despite numerous traffic violations and a license suspension." The investigation found a number ... Read more ...

Hurricane shutter company failed to deliver

Mc Nelly Torres of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reviewed bankruptcy records, county licensing records and complaints filed with the local consumer affairs division to show that Palms West Shutter & Screen Inc., a company supplying hurricane shutters, had taken about $1.5 million in deposits from 672 Palm Beach residents before it sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October & mdash; the same month Hurricane Wilma hit the area. "Residents gave their money to the company — licensed to install screened closures in Broward since 1978 — in many cases more than 20 percent — expecting hurricane shutters and screen enclosures for their homes that have yet to be completed." Bankruptcy records show that the company also owes money to vendors, suppliers, the Internal Revenue Service and other businesses. The high demand for and shortage ... Read more ...

Judge violates federal law

Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting, writing for Salon.com, reviewed court and financial records and found that a judge nominated by President Bush to one of the highest courts in the nation has apparently violated federal law repeatedly while serving on the federal bench. Judge James H. Payne, a Bush-appointed chief judge in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, took action and issued more than 100 orders in at least 20 cases that involved companies in which he or his wife owned stock. "Federal law and the official Code of Conduct for U.S. judges ... Read more ...