Extra Extra : February 2008

Former Florida prison boss ran a corrupt operation

An investigation by Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost of CNN revealed that the former head of one of America's largest prison systems ran a Mafia-like operation riddled with corruption. In an exclusive interview before he stepped down, James McDonough, secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, called his predecessor a "psychopath" who oversaw a system of corruption that included drunken brawls, kickbacks from a prison vendor, taxpayer funds used to pay for alcohol and prostitutes, and guards punishing coworkers when they threatened to report inappropriate activities.

Charity contiues shady practices in California

Ron Campbell of the Orange County Register investigated the the shady practices of the American Deputy Sheriff's Association, one of America's most ineffective "charities." In 2004, after being banned from seven states, an Ohio judge seized the charity and appointed a new receiver to oversee operations. However, the new management did not eradicate the problems. For every dollar raised by the organization, only a half cent actually goes to charitable causes. Despite the organization's large presence in California, California officials say any regulation must come from the Ohio Attorney General's office.

Complaints against contractors on rise in Florida, response slow

Mc Nelly Torres of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that consumer complaints registered against state-licensed contractors have significantly increased since the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. As a result, consumers are having to wait twice as long for resolutions to their complaints. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation cites insufficient resources and staff to handle the influx in a timely manner.

Cost of bringing poultry to the table comes at expense of workers

In "The Cruelest Cuts," a six-part series by The Charlotte Observer, the paper examines the human cost of bringing poultry to the table. The series illustrates how one N.C.-based poultry processor, House of Raeford Farms, masked injuries inside its plants and ignored its largely Latino workers who complained of debilitating pain. To conduct the series, the newspaper interviewed more than 200 poultry workers across the Southeast and reviewed thousands of pages of OSHA documents, academic studies, workers' compensation cases and rarely-examined company injury logs. Said a top OSHA official about the newspaper's findings: "This is abuse. I ... Read more ...

"Special Access"

Ken Dilanian of USA Today used invitations, interviews and FEC records to compile a partial list of lobbyist-hosted fundraisers for DC politicians. Other fundraisers take place at private residences in DC owned by lobbyists. The story illustrates how lobbyists and politicians have found ways to skirt the laws banning gifts to lawmakers. "USA TODAY counted more than 400 congressional fundraisers at lobbyist-, corporate- or labor-owned Capitol Hill facilities last year through November, benefiting 214 lawmakers — 40% of Congress." The web package includes an interactive graphic and a database mapping the fundraisers, including information who benefited from the event.

Former escort to be lead witness in US vs. Pellicano

Eric Longabardi of ERSNews.com is reporting that an Erin Finn, whose "resume runs the gamut from model to escort, house sitter, and Internet tech geek" is likely to be the lead witness for the federal wiretapping and racketeering case against Anthony Pellicano, a Hollywood private investigator. The Enterprise Report interviewed Finn over the last 18 months to detail how she went from relative anonymity to become the key witness in this federal case.

"A Dangerous Business Revisted"

FRONTLINE revisits a January 2003 investigation of McWane, Inc., a pipe foundry company which proved to be "the most dangerous company in an inherently dangerous business." In A Dangerous Business Revisited, Lowell Bergman looks at what happened since the original investigation aired, including the Department of Justice's response which led to federal prosecutions at five McWane facilities. "The McWane investigations created a new template for protecting workers. By trying companies under environmental laws, which carry stiffer fines and prison terms, prosecutors were able to sidestep the lesser penalties set forth for OSHA violations." In the five years since the ... Read more ...

"Dangerous Drivers"

Kevin Wack of the Portland Press Herald investigated the impact that drivers with suspended licenses are having on Maine roads. His series explores the dangers they pose and how efforts to address the problem are falling short. "The newspaper analyzed records from about 160,000 motor-vehicle crashes that occurred from 2003 to 2006 using a statewide database obtained through Maine's Freedom of Access Act; examined hundreds of individual driving records; and interviewed scores of motorists, victims, traffic safety researchers, policymakers and law enforcement officials." Accidents involving drivers with suspended licenses are six times more likely to be fatal; four ... Read more ...

State falls behind in routine fire safety inspection of schools

Despite laws requiring regular fire safety inspection of the state's schools, an investigation by KNXV-TV (Phoenix) revealed that the Office of the Arizona State Fire Marshal have failed to complete the routine inspections. "A review of records for 200 schools in Maricopa County revealed more than 70 schools that have not been inspected for two or more years. We also found more than 30 schools with inspection reports indicating the facilities were not recommended for licensing at the time."

Fundraisers wield influence over North Carolina Board of Transportation

Dan Kane and Benjamin Noilet of the News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) report that reforms introduced a decade ago and meant to repair the "scandal-plagued" Board of Transportation in North Carolina have done little to end the corruption. Despite laws introduced to curb their influence, fundraisers are still landing prime spots on the Board. "The 19-member DOT board remains a plum spot for big political fundraisers who continue to ignore conflicts of interest and the wider needs of the state beyond their own districts."