Extra Extra : April 2006

Health agency ignores sexual misconduct complaints

Julia Sommerfeld and Michael J. Berens of The Seattle Times used state records to show that Seattle's Health Department has dismissed — without any investigation — 461 sexual-misconduct complaints against health-care professionals in the past decade, or nearly one-third of the 1,494 complaints received. "These complaints include counselors accused of molesting clients, nurses suspected of fondling patients and doctors turned in for demanding sex in exchange for treatment." As a result, health-care licenses were left unblemished, and possible victims were cast aside. And sexual predators went undetected, only to harm again. The three-day series looks at how the Health Department ... Read more ...

Church's report on priests incomplete

Jean Guccione and William Lobdell of the Los Angeles Times analyzed church records to show that 11 priests were left out of the 2004 "Report to the People of God" even after parishioners raised concerns about inappropriate behavior with children. "Seven of these 11 cases were not detailed in the People of God report. The other four were mentioned incompletely; the report said they were removed when complaints were lodged but did not disclose that the Los Angeles Archdiocese had received earlier reports of misconduct." One of the 11 cases involves the late Msgr. Leland Boyer, whose publicly released file ... Read more ...

S. Fla. judges put cases on secret docket

Patrick Danner and Dan Christensen of The Miami Herald investigated more than 100 cases kept hidden on a secret docket in Broward since 2001 and found that three Broward Circuit Court judges failed to follow the law by "sealing" cases — closing off all the information in them — without giving public notice or showing sufficient reason. "The practices of sealing cases without notice and of putting cases on a secret docket go against the basic tenet that courts funded by the public must be open to the public. " Broward judges — Victor Tobin, Ronald Rothschild and Robert Carney — did not comply with ... Read more ...

Malicious hackers get sneakier

Byron Acohido and Jon Swartz of the USA Today used court records and interviews with regulators, security experts and independent investigators to illustrate the mindset of the growing fraternity of hackers and cyberthieves born after 1985. "They also provide a glimpse of Cybercrime Inc.'s most versatile and profitable tool." The arrests of three young men show that the malicious-software spreaders are getting sneakier and more prevalent. The arrests underscore an ominous shift in the struggle to keep the Internet secure: Cybercrime undergirded by networks of bots — PCs infected with malicious software that allows them to be controlled by an ... Read more ...

Mining disaster might have been prevented

Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette found that Sago Mine officials knew of a buildup of explosive methane behind mine seals where a Jan. 2 blast is believed to have occurred, in a two-day series of stories about the explosion. Twelve miners died in the explosion, making it the worst coal mining disaster in West Virginia in nearly 40 years. By examining transcripts of investigative interviews, Ward found that one mine official lied about having received safety training and another said his safety test notebook 'disappeared' after the explosion." The methane concentrations were not yet high enough ... Read more ...

Delphi executives fly high as company sinks

Steve Wilson of WXYZ-Detroit found that although Delphi, the giant auto parts company, was facing bankruptcy, scores of top executives and officers were reaping sizeable special bonuses and cash incentives. Delphi admits such benefits are not available to its hourly workers because they claim that while executives are making less than competitive salaries, American workers are already making more than the market should bear. "After making $2 billion in its first two years on its own, Delphi began to hemorrhage red ink, posting loss after loss totaling a whopping $6.3 billion in the last seven quarters reported. The company ... Read more ...

Classified military information on sale in bazaar

Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times found stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses were on sale in the local bazaar no more than 200 yards from the main gate of the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan. "Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods, including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash memory drives taken from military laptops." The thefts of computer drives have the potential to expose military ... Read more ...

Lines blurred in professors' taxpayer-funded research

Matt Reed and John McCarthy of Florida Today examined university records to show that every day in Florida, state university professors work as consultants, expert witnesses and researchers-for-hire, earning thousands in fees. Most often, those faculty members work in their roles as public employees, sponsored by grants from corporations, local governments or trade groups. "But roughly one out of four professors also work side jobs as consultants or other specialists, pocketing extra annual income of $4,500 to more than $12,000, depending on their disciplines." The investigation found the work has gone uncharted for years. The newspaper found dozens ... Read more ...

County dumps toxic materials, fails to clean up

Asjylyn Loder of the St. Petersburg Times used local and state documents to show that Hernando County's public works facility served as a toxic dumping ground for years, and "instead of cleaning up the site, the county continued polluting. Instead of cracking down on the county's ineffective cleanup, the state allowed delay after delay." Despite hiring several consultants and hearing from residents and employees, government officials submitted reports late, cleanup efforts stalled and pollution continued. (Editor's note: For more about toxic dumping, look for the May/June 2006 issue of The IRE Journal which features several stories ... Read more ...

Force used for minor offenses in boot camp

Carol Marbin Miller of The Miami Herald used juvenile justice records and found that force was used against teenage boys in spite of nonviolent behavior at a Florida sheriff's boot camp. "In only eight of the 180 instances documented since January 2003 were the teenagers described as hitting guards, fighting with other youths, threatening to escape or trying to harm themselves." In many of the cases, the guards used the tactics despite written orders by Department of Juvenile Justice chief Anthony Schembri, who in June 2004 banned the use of physical force except in extreme situations. Juvenile justice experts ... Read more ...