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 [email protected] where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "California" ...

  • Corruption at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

    From the Summer Olympics to papal visits to Super Bowls, the iconic peristyle of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum long symbolized many of the city’s proudest hours. Now, because of the work of three Los Angeles Times reporters, the stately columns have become an emblem of one of the worst corruption scandals in recent Southern California history. The stories produced by Rong-Gong Lin II, Paul Pringle and Andrew Blankstein have led directly to the felony indictments of three public officials, the nation’s No. 1 promoter of rave concerts, another prominent music executive and a government contractor. A second misdemeanor case has been filed against two other Coliseum employees. The charges spelled out in the indictments mirror the reporters' findings – tales of bribery, embezzlement, kickbacks and conflict of interest. They allege that the taxpayers who own the Coliseum were bilked out of some $2 million and perhaps much more.
  • Deeply Buried Doubts: Errors and Fraud Threaten California’s Costliest Bridge

    This year-long investigation examined construction and testing of the new $6.4 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and found widespread errors and malfeasance. The new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the most costly public works project in California history. Its designers valued one quality above all others: the strength to withstand the strongest anticipated earthquake. This investigation raised questions about the structural integrity of the span that are not easy to answer. It revealed flaws in tests of the main tower’s foundation, chronicled the troubled work history of the technician who conducted many of the tests and had fabricated data on other structures. The series also revealed bridges throughout the state burdened with similar issues – raising calls for new safety examinations. Until contacted by The Bee, the California Department of Transportation had overlooked the problems with the Bay Bridge. But the findings of the initial stories of the series – validated by top experts in the construction and testing of such massive foundations – forced them to act. Two Caltrans employees – the technician and his supervisor – were fired as a result of the Bee stories, prosecutors launched investigations and state legislative committees convened to examine the department’s practices and culture. The stories were based on a review of about 80,000 pages of technical plans, test results, internal emails and personnel documents, and interviews with numerous insiders. The Bee showed how officials failed to conduct a thorough investigation of testing fabrications, years after learning of the problems. After the initial story in 2011 (not part of this award application, but included in the submission for context only), Caltrans’ “peer review” experts examined the Bay Bridge– and gave it a clean bill of health. Piller showed soon after that they were compromised by serious financial and professional conflicts of interest with Caltrans and bridge contractors.
  • Playing With Fire

    For decades, manufacturers have packed the foam cushions inside sofas, loveseats and upholstered chairs in homes across America with toxic flame retardants. Companies did this even though research shows the chemicals – linked to cancer, developmental problems and impaired fertility – don’t slow fires and are migrating into the bodies of adults and children. That began to change in 2012 when the Chicago Tribune’s investigative series “Playing With Fire” exposed how the chemical and tobacco industries waged a deceptive, decades-long campaign to promote the use of flame retardant furniture and downplay the hazards. As a result of the series, historic reforms are underway, and flame retardants became one of the top public health issues of the year. The series sparked two U.S. Senate hearings and the Environmental Protection Agency began a broad investigation. Most importantly, California announced it would scrap the rule responsible for flame retardants’ presence in homes throughout the nation.
  • Boy Scouts Revealed: Trail of Betrayal

    In the late fall of 2011 the investigative team at KGTV in San Diego, California began examining a culture of secrecy inside one of America’s most trusted youth organizations: The Boy Scouts of America. The series of reports, which aired in May and July 2012, revealed scout leaders knew about child molestation within scouting but rarely reported it to authorities. The local reporting triggered a national investigation by our newly established Scripps national investigative bureau based in Washington, DC. The Scripps national investigative team reviewed 30,000 pages of the Boy Scouts secret files with dates ranging from 1970 to 1991 to uncover the full scope of abuse throughout the country. The national team’s investigation resulted in a 3 part series that focused on the scope of the abuse throughout the country; the systematic failures that allowed the abuse to continue; and the state of scouts today. The series aired in all 13 Scripps broadcast markets and 13 Scripps newspapers. The broadcast packages and print articles were showcased on all 26 Scripps websites along with other online elements to provide our online audiences with an immersive interactive experience to explore our findings. This entry is focused on the broadcast portion of the project.
  • Escondido Police Under Fire

    Escondido, California, has a long history of discriminating against its large Latino population. For years the City Council had tried and failed to enact legislation that would make it difficult for Spanish-speaking immigrants, documented or otherwise, to take up residence there. But “Escondido Police Under Fire” uncovers how, in 2004, local legislators along with the Escondido Police Department found an ingenious way to rid the city of undocumented immigrants — and make a profit. In 2004, Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration funds to encourage states to get drunk drivers off the road. Escondido some of these funds and began one of the most rigorous Driving Under the Influence checkpoint programs in the State of California. The taxpayer funds allowed Escondido police to set up sobriety checkpoints several times a month. The stated goal was to catch inebriated drivers and to raise public awareness about the dangers of drunk driving. But Escondido police quickly discovered that they could make money by impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers. At the time, in California, if someone was caught driving without a license, their vehicle could be seized and subjected to a 30-day impound. In Escondido, the fees to retrieve the impounded vehicle were exorbitant. Escondido police began systematically asking every driver who came through a sobriety checkpoint to show a driver’s license. Escondido Police, the investigation reveals, soon brokered an agreement with Immigration Customs Enforcement to run background checks on all unlicensed drivers at the sobriety checkpoints to ascertain whether they were legally in the country. If a perfectly sober undocumented immigrant drove up to a sobriety checkpoint and could not produce a driver’s license — even though the checkpoints were being funded to get drunk drivers off the road — the unlicensed driver’s car would be impounded, ICE would run a background check, and the driver would be deported. Quickly, these federally funded sobriety checkpoints had become de facto immigration checkpoints — at an enormous profit to the Escondido police. From 2008 to 2011 the city of Escondido and tow companies with city contracts pulled in $11 million in fees, citations and auctioned vehicles from checkpoints. And hundreds of drivers were subsequently deported.
  • America's Great State Payroll Giveaway

    A state-employed psychiatrist in California made $822,000 by clocking in 17 hours every day last year, including Sundays and holidays. An employee cashed out with $609,000 for unused vacation when she retired, claiming she never took vacations in a 30-year career. A highway patrol officer collected $484,000 in salary, pension and leave payments. The chief money manager at a Texas pension fund got $1 million in salary and bonuses while posting investment returns that trailed those of peers who earned a quarter as much. Bloomberg News used freedom-of-information laws to obtain 1.4 million payroll records from the 12 largest states and show how taxpayers funded these out-of-control expenses and more, while at the same time states cut funding for universities, public safety, health care, schools and services aimed at the neediest residents.
  • A story of hope, and a lopsided deal

    A six-month Boston Globe investigation revealed that a contractor from California was repeatedly employing impoverished, drug-addicted men from an evangelical church to renovate hotels across the country. The story started in Boston, where reporter Casey Ross discovered that the contractor, Installations Plus, was paying illegally low wages to workers trucked up from Victory Outreach Church in Philadelphia. He also traced the illegal behavior to other Massachusetts communities and then to California, where he spent several days tracking down Victory Outreach members who recalled working for the contractor in that state. The result of his reporting was a richly detailed narrative that took readers into a little-known corner of America’s underground economy. After the story’s publication, the state of Massachusetts announced an effort to strengthen labor enforcement against companies that fund and manage projects where significant violations are found. In addition, California labor officials initiated an investigation into the employment practices of Installations Plus.
  • Wage Theft In the Fields

    American farmworkers have often experienced egregious abuses, but nothing is more pervasive, nor harder to ferret out, than the wage theft that results from a practice called farm-labor contracting. Found in the fields of every handpicked crop in the country, farm-labor contractors not only provide growers with crews, but also handle wages and manage everything from verifying immigration status to providing workers' compensation. The problem is, the contractors systematically underpay the workers. “Farm labor contractors,” says writer Tracie McMillan, “give American produce growers what companies like China's Foxconn offer to Apple: a way to outsource a costly and complicated part of the business, often saving money in the process and creating a firewall between the brand and the working conditions under which its products are made.” And yet McMillan — a fellow with both the Knight-Wallace program at University of Michigan, and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University — found that enforcement is rare: In 2008, inspectors visited only 1,499 of the more than 2 million farms nationwide; in 2011, California inspectors found just seven minimum wage violations on the state’s 86,000 farms. Fines are minimal: “It's cheaper to violate the law than to follow the law,” says one farmworker advocate. And wage theft is tedious to prove, requiring inspectors to interview workers, analyze time cards, and collect payroll records. That's why workers and their advocates in California are counting on a lawsuit brought earlier this year on behalf of two farmworkers against the contractors who hired them—as well as the growers who outsourced the work. The suit alleges that the contractors routinely undercounted the hours worked, failed to pay minimum wage or overtime, failed to provide safe or sanitary working conditions, and housed the workers in unsafe and unsanitary living quarters. The “collective action” suit—open to anyone who can prove he or she experienced the same treatment—may cover thousands of workers and deliver awards substantial enough to deter other employers from the same practices.
  • Led by an innocent into a web of evil

    The investigation chronicles the tireless efforts of Boston federal agents who followed the trail of a single photo of a distraught toddler erroneously sent to them by a Boston-area man obsessed with child pornography. It ended with the arrests of more than 42 men from California to Mexico and the discovery of more than 140 exploited children, one of them only days old. In the telling, staff writer Jenifer B. McKim deftly details the exploding worldwide problem of child pornography, the new and innovative efforts made by investigators to rescue children and track down criminals, and the devastating toll that child porn takes on victims and families.
  • Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper

    Scapegoat is the true story of the horrific Chino Hills murders -- the highest profile crime in San Bernardino County history. It shows how law enforcement ignored eyewitness information implicating three white men as the perpetrators in order to pin the crime on Kevin Cooper, a recently escaped black prisoner from the nearby prison in Chino, California. It shows how his public defender lost the case before the trial even began and how the justice system has failed Cooper at almost every turn. It also shows the heroic work of an international law firm headquartered in San Francisco that adopted Cooper's case pro bono just three months before his scheduled execution in 2004 and won him a stay and how lawyers from this firm continue to appeal his wrongful conviction.