Extra Extra : March 2011

Investigation shows MAC athletic programs profit from academic fees

Students at Kent State University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication investigated student fees in an effort to illuminate how those fees are spent on Mid-American Conference (MAC) campuses. A series of stories and graphics bring to light how the campuses athletic departments are funded by academic student fees.  Of the campuses that responded to the investigation, only the University of Buffalo discloses athletic fees as a line-item on tuition bills.

Developer plagued with business, legal problems

"A Nashville Business Journal investigation has uncovered a trail of unpaid bills, bounced checks, evictions, troubled business associates and unfulfilled plans left by Dennis W. Peterson." Peterson, the developer of a proposed $750 million mega theme park near Nashville, has racked up at least three quarters of a million dollars in civil judgments in three different states, court records show. Additionally, an associate of his is a registered sex offender in Michigan, and the developer had theme park ties to the late Michael Jackson.  Despite these issues, a local planning commission has approved a rezoning.

Woman who lost law license appointed as guardian, stole from clients

As part of a continuing investigation into problems with guardians in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported how a woman who lost her law license for negligence and dishonesty found a new career in the courthouse as a guardian and conservator for vulnerable adults. Now the woman is charged with stealing $68,000 for 10 of her clients, raising new questions about how the state oversees court-appointed caretakers. The mandatory background check for guardians and conservators did not include checking disciplinary action by licensing boards, and judges and social workers admit that they failed to communicate about the well-documented problems with ... Read more ...

NY lawmakers cut services while funneling money to own interests

Michelle Breidenbach of The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY, reports that while New York state lawmakers were cutting services for health and education, they continued to quietly borrow millions of dollars for grants under their sole control. The legislators handed out grants without competition or open review, and often gave the public money to political insiders and supporters.

Majority of Florida agencies compliant with public records laws

A report by Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press shows a statewide audit of Florida's public records law found that the vast majority of agencies in the state were in compliance with with the law.  The audit was conducted as part of Sunshine Week.  201 agencies were initially contacted.  Of the 148 who responded, 86.5 percent complied with the requests. "That’s a major improvement from audits in past years that showed less than half the agencies complying, said Barbara Petersen, president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation."

Head of Emerging Technology Fund profited off of private deals

The Dallas Morning News investigated Alan Kirchhoff, the former director of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's prized economic development program, the Emerging Technology Fund. The story traced the rapid rise of Kirchhoff and his friendship with a powerful member of the tech fund's advisory committee, William E. Morrow. The News obtained a Texas Ranger investigation that found that Kirchhoff's secret side deals with Morrow had transformed Kirchhoff into a millionaire. The newspaper's investigation revealed a portrait of Kirchhoff as someone with a string of minor white-collar jobs and business failures whose resume contained omissions, distortions, and ... Read more ...

Investigation shows Phoenix kidnapping statistics are skewed

Using Arizona's Open Records Law, Dave Biscobing of KNXV-TV in Phoenix recently uncovered discrepancies in kidnapping statistics used by the Phoenix Police Department to obtain more than $2 million in federal grant money. City leaders and Arizona Senator John McCain repeatedly cited the statistics, calling Phoenix the "Kidnapping Capital of the US." However, Biscobing's research found more than 100 of the 358 cases cited by Phoenix Police in 2008 were not kidnappings. The Phoenix Police Department cited vehicle impounds, assaults, and crimes that did not even happen in Phoenix as legitimate kidnappings. The morning after his initial report ... Read more ...

Grounded pilots promoted to key California National Guard positions

Searching for the Truth

In this three-part series, Brandon Stahl of the Duluth News Tribune reports on a rape case that remains unsolved. In a classic case of "he said, she said," a 34-year-old woman accused a 17-year-old male of coming into her home and raping her while holding a gun to her throat. Andrew Lawrence, the accused, maintains his innocence and says he should have never been arrested. After Lawrence was released on bail, prosecutors dismissed the charges against him. Stahl investigates the holes in the investigation and the time line of events as told by the accused, the accuser, the police and ... Read more ...

Asthma strikes more young people in certain Utah ZIP codes

A report by the Salt Lake Tribune reveals that children living on the west side of Salt Lake City take more trips to the emergency room and are more likely to "be hospitalized for asthma than those living in the rest of the state." An analysis of data from the Utah Department of Health that was requested by the Tribune shows a stark variance in the number of times kids are hospitalized in relation to the lung disease depending on where they live in the state.