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Extra Extra Monday | Mass. deals with ‘zombie’ boards, new details about GM recall, Minn. screens out child abuse reports

Minnesota counties 'screen out' most child abuse reports | Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota’s counties received nearly 68,000 reports of child abuse or neglect last year but closed most of those cases without investigation or assessment.

A review of state and federal data by the Star Tribune shows that the number of child abuse reports being screened out without any protective action rose last year to the third-highest rate in the country.

In all, the state screened out more than 48,000 such abuse reports last year ­— and authorities often made their decisions after only gathering information from a phone call or a fax.


Many state boards undercut by vacancies | The Boston Globe

Massachusetts is facing a little noticed breakdown in democracy. More than one-third of seats on state boards and commissions are either vacant or occupied by people whose terms expired months or years ago, according to a Globe review last week. In all, the Globe counted 919 vacancies and 867 holdover members on nearly 700 boards that oversee everything from a cranberry research center to a commission studying postpartum depression.


Documents reveal state's fracking homework | Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY)

A major Pennsylvania health-care system invited New York to participate in a long-term, extensive study of shale-gas drilling's human impacts, but a partnership never materialized.

The February 2013 invitation from a Geisinger Health System administrator was among thousands of pages of documents recently released by the state Department of Health regarding its ongoing review of hydraulic fracturing.

The trove of documents includes dozens of outside studies on fracking, as well as some limited correspondence with state officials. In one 2012 letter, New York's top environmental regulator declined a meeting with famed consumer advocate and third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader.


State Police scandal buried: Problems at downstate barracks included missing cocaine, pills | Times Union (Albany, NY)

The State Police kept secret an evidence-handling scandal that erupted in 2011 at a bustling barracks in Westchester County in which drugs and other evidence were lost, leading to botched prosecutions, the retirement of two senior investigators and the forced resignation of a trooper accused of lying to internal affairs investigators.

The only person arrested in the investigation was a nurse who is married to a former senior investigator.


Milwaukee County jail guard's stalking allegations persisted over years | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When former Milwaukee County jail guard Aron Arvelo was charged recently with two felonies accusing him of secretly recording female co-workers, it wasn't the first time he had run into trouble for harassing women.

Just 2 1/2 years earlier, officials tried unsuccessfully to fire Arvelo after he was caught stalking a co-worker. But a five-member citizen panel refused to follow the recommendation, putting Arvelo back in his old job.


Pilot's career stalls after criticizing oxygen system | The Virginian-Pilot

The Air Force has spent tens of millions of dollars over the past two years correcting problems with its premier jet fighter - issues that Capt. Joshua Wilson helped expose by speaking up, both to his bosses and on national television.

Since then, Wilson's career as an F-22 Raptor pilot has stalled. A member of the Virginia Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Squadron, Wilson hasn't been permitted to fly the jet since early 2012. He's fighting disciplinary actions that he sees as retribution for going public.


Mass. Legislature among states that pass the fewest bills | New England Center for Investigative Reporting

From January 2011 through last month, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted 945 bills – just 5 percent of nearly 17,600 proposed. Only New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota passed a smaller percentage of proposed legislation in that time, according to data compiled from the LexisNexis website Statenet.com.


Iowa City seeking tighter regulations on taxi drivers after recent assault reports | The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism

Earlier this year, three women reported that Iowa City drivers — two from unmarked cabs — made unwanted sexual advances, and police are investigating. The assaults show another form of danger haunting weekends in home to the University of Iowa when alcohol flows and carefree moments make students easy marks.

Many city officials agree that changes to taxi regulations would reduce chances that a cab ride will end in tragedy.


For city managers, a slew of pay, perks | U-T San Diego

One city manager is guaranteed to earn 15 percent more than his second-highest paid employee. Another was granted up to $2,500 in public funds to pay for lawyers or other experts to advise him on his employment contract.

The $260,000 base salary awarded to incoming Carlsbad City Manager Steven Sarkozy prompted U-T Watchdog to revisit the compensation paid to city administrators in San Diego County.


Documents detail another delayed GM recall | Associated Press

General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repair claims, according to government documents released Saturday.


Stream gauge funding can imperil safety | Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghampton, NY)

Officials, emergency responders and citizens in waterside communities across the Southern Tier and Central New York rely on stream and river level information to make decisions affecting public safety in the event of a potential flood.

Yet in recent years, government funding for the critical devices has become as fickle and unpredictable as the waters themselves.

Losing the equipment leaves forecasters in the dark, unable to put out advance warnings to those who could be in harm’s way.

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