Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

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  • "Healthy Holly" and University of Maryland Medical System Investigation

    The “Healthy Holly” scandal began with a suggestion from a source, a state legislator who told Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater she thought there might be some irregular contracting practices going on at the University of Maryland Medical System. Broadwater, busy covering the General Assembly session, filed a public records request. The documents showed that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and other members of the hospital network’s board of directors had no-bid contracts with the medical system -- though the extent of those contracts, especially Pugh's, were not fully described. Broadwater's story -- written quickly as a daily as soon as he received the documents -- was breaking news that got the attention of Maryland's political establishment: University of Maryland Medical System pays members of volunteer board hundreds of thousands in business deals. Immediately, Broadwater and other Baltimore Sun reporters followed their instincts and tips that were coming in -- including that Pugh had failed to print many of the books she’d been paid to produce, while thousands of others were sitting unread in a Baltimore school system warehouse. Meanwhile, Sun reporters pulled ethics forms, poured over tax records, filed public information requests and worked sources, breaking story after story that exposed a widening scandal that rocked the state of Maryland, perhaps more than any other series of articles in decades. Their work led to the resignation of the mayor, the UMMS CEO and other top officials, including every member of the medical system's board of directors.
  • In the hot seat

    When reporters at NBC News began probing OSHA severe injury data in February 2019, an interesting takeaway emerged: UPS had a higher rate of heat injuries than any other company. At least 107 UPS workers in 23 states had been hospitalized for heat illnesses since 2015. In severe cases, heat can lead to organ failure and death. But regulators have little enforcement ability on this issue because there is no OSHA standard protecting workers from heat--even as climate change brings record-breaking temperatures. NBC News filed more than two dozen public records requests for state-level data -- to supplement the federal OSHA data -- and hundreds of pages of incident reports, and spoke with dozens of UPS employees, uncovering a corporate culture that exacerbated the problem. Long hours, heavy routes, fear of retaliation and sweltering trucks and warehouses pushed workers workers past their limits. Managers pushing workers to continue working when sick, and employees too intimidated to report their injuries. UPS claimed that their iconic brown trucks do not get dangerously hot, but NBC News sent five temperature loggers in packages across the country, during one of the hottest weeks of the summer. The results showed that each package exceeded 100 degrees while on a truck, with one hitting nearly 115 degrees. Drivers around the country also sent us images of temperature readings they took in their own trucks -- the hottest clocked in at 158 degrees. Between rising temperatures and the growing demands of the two-day delivery economy, dozens of UPS drivers said conditions are getting worse. Follow up stories uncovered additional injuries and more examples of UPS poorly protecting its workers from the heat. Following our story, OSHA fined UPS for a heat injury for the first time in nearly a decade.
  • Doing the Math: Behind a $5 Million Inauguration

    For nearly a year, the Texas Tribune’s Shannon Najmabadi and Jay Root have been on the hunt for records detailing the state’s spending on Gov. Greg Abbott’s 2019 inauguration. From a source, they obtained a program and fundraising solicitation for the celebration. The documents revealed that dozens of influential corporations and individuals — AT&T Corporation; H-E-B grocery; a handful of political appointees — had donated thousands of dollars for front-row access during the festivities — and, perhaps, beyond.
  • Tarnished Brass

    In the name of protecting men and women in uniform, states across the country have made it nearly impossible to identify dangerous law enforcement officers with a track record of violence and other misdeeds. Records detailing their misconduct often are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside of the department. Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed. A national tracking system for backgrounding officers is incomplete and not available to the public. More than two years ago, USA TODAY and its network of newsrooms across the nation set out to change that. More than two dozen reporters began collecting public records from the communities they covered and beyond. Also contributing substantially to the record-gathering was the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization in Chicago that focuses on issues around policing tactics and criminal justice. We pieced together lists of decertified officers in more than 40 states. We collected logs and paper records related to 110,000 internal affairs investigations. We gathered information on 14,000 lawsuits against departments and fought to obtain so-called Brady lists, documenting officers flagged for lying and other misdeeds. Then we scoured story archives from our newsrooms and others to piece together the most comprehensive list of police misconduct cases ever built.
  • Las Vegas Review-Journal's Fight for Records

    The Las Vegas Review-Journal fought for and won access to vital public information in 2019, including police reports, investigative documents and lawsuits. And it took the fight all the way to the Nevada Legislature to do something our adversaries in the public sector thought was impossible: We helped strengthen the state’s previously toothless Public Records Act.
  • Opportunity Zones

    Trump’s only significant legislative achievement was his 2017 tax code overhaul. It contained a provision to help the poor, called “opportunity zones.” In 2019, ProPublica showed that while the benefits to the poor have not yet materialized, some people have already reaped the rewards: the wealthy and politically connected. We found that wealthy developers lobbied government officials and got their long-planned investments in luxury projects included in the program, despite its avowed goal of attracting new investment into poor areas. Critically, two of our stories feature areas that never should have been qualified for the program in the first place, but were allowed in by a deeply flawed implementation of the law by the U.S. Treasury Department. They were then selected by state governors after lobbying efforts by wealthy developers. Our articles, along with those of other outlets, led to Congressional calls for investigations into the designation process, as well as proposed reforms to make the program more transparent and to eliminate potential abuses by investors.
  • Unprotected: Broken promises in Georgia’s senior care industry

    The assisted living industry exploded in Georgia over the past decade as investors rushed to cash in on the graying of America. They built facilities with resort-like amenities and promised great care, for a price of thousands of dollars a month. But as this senior housing boom took hold, Georgia failed to provide adequate oversight, and the fancy chandeliers and expensive amenities hid the realities of an industry where for-profit owners are more focused on real estate deals than properly caring for vulnerable seniors.
  • The Fight for Legislative Records

    The group of stories submitted start with the anti-transparency actions that Washington state lawmakers took after an AP-led coalition prevailed in superior court in January 2018, when a judge ruled that state lawmakers are subject to the same public disclosure law that other elected officials are. The final story and glance are on the state Supreme Court in December 2019 upholding that lower court ruling. The state high court ruling is the end of a nearly three- year effort by Rachel La Corte at The Associated Press to successfully challenge lawmakers’ assertion that they had a special exemption from the state’s Public Records Act.
  • Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America

    Through insider accounts, Justice Department documents and research in four countries, Citizen 865 chronicles the setbacks, failures and great successes of a small team of federal prosecutors and historians that spent decades working to expose a brutal group of Nazi war criminals living in the United States. In 1990, in a basement archive in Prague, two American historians made a startling discovery: a Nazi roster from 1945 that no Western investigator had ever seen. The long-forgotten document, containing more than 700 names, helped unravel the details behind the most lethal killing operation in World War Two. In the tiny Polish village of Trawniki, the SS set up a school for mass murder and then recruited a roving army of foot soldiers, 5,000 men strong, to help annihilate the Jewish population of occupied Poland. More than 1.7 million Jews were murdered in fewer than 20 months, the span of two Polish summers. After the war, some of these men vanished, making their way to the U.S. and blending into communities across America. Though they participated in some of the most unspeakable crimes of the Holocaust, “Trawniki Men” spent years hiding in plain sight, their secrets intact. In a story spanning seven decades, Citizen 865 details the wartime journeys of two Jewish orphans from occupied Poland who outran the men of Trawniki and settled in the United States, only to learn that some of their one-time captors had followed. A team of prosecutors and historians pursued these men and, up against the forces of time and political opposition, battled to the present day to remove them from U.S. soil.
  • Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn't

    The book revisits the murder conviction of Jo Ann Parks, sentenced to life in prison without parole for allegedly murdering her three young children in 1989by setting fire to her home and trapping them inside. In re-investigating the case, the author found flawed forensic science, false and contradictory testimony, and strong evidence of cognitive bias throughout the case, including use of an unreliable informant who later recanted, and sworn expert testimony that the fire began because Parks supposedly constructed a crude “incendiary device” by deliberately overloading a sabotaged electrical extension cord. Testing later proved the cord did not and could not start a fire. Information in the book has since been added to Parks’ existing habeas corpus petition filed by the California Innocence Project, now being considered by the state Supreme Court. Additional findings suggests the problems with flawed forensic science and cognitive bias in general, and in arson investigation in particular, is widespread and has led to other wrongful convictions. Correcting the use of flawed forensic and expert testimony is hindered by the legal system’s reliance on precedent, which slows and sometimes prevents the correction of scientifically dubious ideas used to win convictions. Nascent attempts to study and change this tendency to prolong the use of flawed forensic science initiated by the Obama Administration have been shut down by the Trump Administration.