Extra Extra : May 2009

Investigation prompts postal service policy change

An investigation by CNN’s Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost led to a major policy change in how much the U.S. Postal Service will pay for an employee’s home. The investigation also prompted an inspector general’s review that criticized how much the agency spends to relocate employees.  CNN revealed how the agency was buying homes ... Read more ...

Series exposes conditions of aging mentally retarded workers

Clark Kauffman of the Des Moines Register follows up on the newspaper's initial, exclusive stories about mentally retarded processing plant workers who spent 40 years living in an aging Iowa bunkhouse run by a Texas labor broker. The latest installment, "The Last Bunkhouse," focuses on a licensed care facility on a rural Texas farm where some of the workers have spent their final days. The owner of this care facility once paid $40,000 to settle allegations that he forced his elderly, disabled residents to perform hard physical labor on his farm. One of the men collapsed and died ... Read more ...

Higher poverty schools get newer teachers

The Statesman Journal recently ran a two-day package that showed how the newest and least experienced teachers in the Salem-Keizer School District work in the highest poverty schools, which was based on a data analysis by the newspaper. Salem-Keizer is the second largest school district in Oregon, with about 40,000 students. Using raw data from the school district and state education department, Statesman Journal education reporter Mackenzie Ryan analyzed teacher experience levels, student minority and poverty make up, and state test results at each school. The package included "case studies" of a high poverty school with high teacher turnover ... Read more ...

Inspiration Network draws scrutiny

The Charlotte Observer published a two-part investigation into the Inspiration Network, which has become one of the world’s fastest growing religious broadcasters largely by repeating this on-air pitch: God brings financial favor to those who donate to the network.  Those contributions have turned the network’s CEO into one of the nation’s best-paid non-profit leaders, with compensation exceeding $1.5 million a year.  The broadcaster has also secured millions in relocation incentives from the state of South Carolina, but has failed to live up to many of its development promises, the paper reported.

Military personnel used fake diplomas for promotion

Breach of Trust, an investigation by Wendy Halloran of WHNT-Huntsville, Ala., revealed how counterfeit credentials have infiltrated all levels of the U.S. Army. For nearly a year, the investigative team followed soldiers, a high-ranking civilian and a defense contractor who bought fake degrees from diploma mills. Some turned them over for promotions with taxpayers footing the bill. The investigation found that the Director of Readiness for the U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command submitted a fake degree in his application for a promotion, and revealed higher-ups knew about it but seemingly looked the other way despite specific policies regarding ... Read more ...

Illinois' new head of corrections leaves Ohio post while under investigation

The investigative team at WBNS-Columbus reported that Michael Randle has been selected as the new head of corrections in Illinois, leaving his position as Ohio's assistant director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.  "Randle leaves Ohio amid an Inspector General's investigation into his role with a contractor who bought furniture from the Department of Corrections.  In March, 10 Investigates discovered Randle's Ohio State University fraternity brother had landed a deal that allowed him to purchase state made furniture for less than other state agencies could purchase the same furniture."

Planet Aid charity may be mishandling funds

Tisha Thompson of WTTG-Washington, DC spent six-months linking the fast-growing charity “Planet Aid” to an alleged cult-leader wanted by European authorities for embezzlement and tax fraud.  The charity’s brought in $30 million in 2007 through the sale of donated items, but there is little evidence the money went to help the poor.  Court documents indicate Planet Aid is one of as many as 200 charities and businesses controlled by Amdi Pedersen. "Our investigation found all of the charities listed in Planet Aid’s most recent tax returns are controlled by the same parent organization, a group called International Humana ... Read more ...

Mortgage company may get federal funds despite problems

The investigative team of KTVT-Dallas/Ft. Worth recently revealed that  Saxon Mortgage could receive more than $400 million in federal funds under the Home Affordable Modification Program despite an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau for hundreds of customer complaints. The story followed one homeowner who was promised a no-fee loan modification only to  be charged more than $1500 in fees. When the homeowner missed payment on a  $20 fee, the company reported her to the credit bureaus, knocking her credit rating down by more than 100 points. The homeowner took Saxon to court and won a $4500 judgment.

Commercial real estate losses threaten local banks

"Commercial real-estate loans could generate losses of $100 billion by the end of next year at more than 900 small and midsize U.S. banks if the economy's woes deepen, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal."  Maurice Tamman and David Enrich report that losses on commercial real-estate loans are much greater than loses related to home loans.  Their analysis reveals that stress on the banking system extends well beyond the largest financial institutions.  An interactive graphic shows how the small and midsized banks fared under the same "stress tests" the federal government used for the nation ... Read more ...

Stimulus funds go to contractors with history of problems

Contractors receiving stimulus funds for nuclear cleanup sites across the country include "many that have been cited for serious safety violations and costly mistakes," according to a report by Kimberly Kindy of The Washington Post. "In the case of the Energy Department program, private contractors do all cleanup work, and they have been involved from the beginning in shaping their piece of the stimulus. As far back as December, when it became clear that Obama would introduce a huge spending bill to create jobs, Energy Department staff members began meeting with the contractors, including representatives from Bechtel National, CH2M Hill ... Read more ...