Extra Extra : June 2010

Board members profit from part-time work

An accountant, a lawyer and two retired executives each collected more than $475,000 last year - and one topped $600,000 - doing part-time work for multiple Wisconsin companies, according to review of Securities and Exchange Commission data by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Cary Spivak. The men are members of corporate America's most elite club: the board of directors. By creating a unique database of board members for the state’s 50 or so public companies, Spivak was able to identify trends and cross-connections between boards. The package included a searchable database of all the board members, their pay ... Read more ...

Institutionalized individuals are "cash cows" for the state of New York

Nine institutions for New York's developmentally disabled get nearly $5,000 per person per day in Medicaid reimbursements. This is ten times what they received in 1991 when the state vowed that they would shut the sprawling, inefficient centers by 2000. According to a report by Mary Beth Pfeiffer, of the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal, the state has not closed the institutions because it would lose a billion dollars a year in federal money.

Convictions result from investigation into workforce grant scheme

The Charleston Gazette’s investigation of federal grant misuse at West Virginia’s state employment agency culminated with four criminal convictions in federal court and a prison sentence for one of the people involved. Gazette business reporter Eric Eyre used a hex editor to analyze the contents of a computer file, showing that the state official in charge of distributing federal grants at the employment agency had written – and later approved  -- a $100,000 grant application for her son’s marketing and publishing firm. The same official tried to steer an additional $1 million to her son’s company, but ... Read more ...

Analysis shows no pattern of racial profiling in Gates' arrest

The latest investigation from the New England Center for Investigation Reporting challenges the notion that race was a factor in the disorderly conduct arrest of Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is black, by a white Cambridge, Mass., police officer last year. "Instead, the analysis...finds that the most common factor linking people who are arrested in Cambridge for disorderly conduct is that they were allegedly screaming or cursing in front of police."

Regulators failed to address problems with blowout preventers

A New York Times investigation shows that regulators knew there were problems with the blind shear ram, a "fail-safe" device intended to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon blowout, yet failed to address them.  "An examination by The New York Times highlights the chasm between the oil industry’s assertions about the reliability of its blowout preventers and a more complex reality. It reveals that the federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure."

Site tracks candidates statements, claims in race for California governor

California Watch launched Politics Verbatim, a site that "collects and categorizes the promises, proposals, arguments and attacks" made by Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman in their race for governor of California.  The site was launched with 300 documents and 1,000 excerpts that will be added to daily as the race progresses allowing voters to hold the candidates accountable in during the campaign.

District's travel practices prove costly

A Texas Watchdog review of three years of the Houston Independent School District's travel records shows a penchant for pricey, last-minute tickets, and a toothless travel policy that allows teachers and staff broad discretion over travel spending. Reporters also spotlighted the school district's use of a travel agency that adds $30 to every ticket issued by the district, even though the school system has two employees, paid $50,750 each, devoted full-time to making travel arrangements. Texas Watchdog used paper records, a database of credit card transactions, and interviews to develop this story.

Regulatory issues on the rise with TARP banks

According to an investigation by Ryan Holeywell of BailoutSleuth.com, "At least one of every nine banks that got taxpayer investment through the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program was later cited by federal regulators for violating rules or failing to meet operating or financial standards."  This is in contradiction to Treasury Department statements claiming TARP funds were only invested in healthy banks.

Psychiatric hospital strained by patient needs, funding shortfalls

An investigation by The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer found that some dangerously ill patients who visit Charlotte’s psychiatric hospital are instead given medicine and sent home - sometimes with disastrous results. With perennial overcrowding at the county's 66-bed psychiatric facility, few who visit the hospital’s emergency department are admitted. The result: patients like Kenny Chapman don’t get the help they need. In March, Chapman told staff at the psychiatric hospital that he wanted to kill his wife. But clinicians opted not to hospitalize him, despite clear evidence of mental illness. Hours after he was released, Chapman suffocated ... Read more ...