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 "public records" ...

  • Police turn a blind eye for City Manager

    The ABC Action News I-Team took an in-depth look at issues, circumstances, and policies that led officers to release a Tampa Bay area city manager, who was found passed out behind the wheel of a running car in the middle of the road. The dashcam video and police reports reveal Tom O’Neill could not stand, walk or talk without assistance. Yet the officer closed the case as a medical call. O’Neill was found in the town he once ran which borders the small city he now over sees. The I-team, through multiple public records requests, discovered a series of phone calls and radio dispatches that led O’Neill’s own police chief to leave his jurisdiction and respond to the scene. His actions contributed to Port Richey Police turning a blind eye to a drunk driver whose blood alcohol level was later found to be four times the legal limit.
  • Public Records Law Extended to Private Prison Firm

    This article describes the culmination of five years of litigation by our publication's managing editor against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit prison company. Although CCA provides services exclusively reserved to government agencies (i.e. the incarceration of criminal offenders), and is paid with public taxpayer funds through government contracts, the company refused to comply with our request for records filed under Tennessee's public records law. Thus, PLN's managing editor, Alex Friedmann, filed suit against CCA in 2008. The company fought tenaciously in court, arguing that as a private entity it was not subject to the public records law. After two trips to the TN Court of Appeals, the deposition of CCA's general counsel and a denial of review by the TN Supreme Court, Friedmann achieved victory in 2013 and established new case law requiring CCA to comply with public records requests because it is the functional equivalent of a government agency.
  • The Shell Game

    On April 24, 2013, a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas, killing 15 people, destroying scores of homes, and leaving a 93-foot deep crater at the blast site. Among the dead were 10 first responders, including five members of the small West Volunteer Fire Department which protects the town of 2,800 on a budget of about $10,000 a year. Within hours of the blast our investigative team pinpointed state records showing how the Texas State Legislature has denied rural volunteer fire departments access to millions of dollars in tax revenue that was collected specifically to help those departments better train and equip for disasters. Our investigation would eventually find that the West Volunteer Fire Department was among the hundreds of departments asking for help from the state but unable to receive it because of a giant shell game run by lawmakers in Austin.
  • TN Court of Appeals Rules Against CCA for Second Time in PLN Public Records Case

    This article describes the culmination of five years of litigation by our publication's managing editor against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest for-profit prison company. Although CCA provides services exclusively reserved to government agencies (i.e. the incarceration of criminal offenders), and is paid with public taxpayer funds through government contracts, the company refused to comply with our request for records filed under Tennessee's public records law. Thus, PLN's managing editor, Alex Friedmann, filed suit against CCA in 2008. The company fought tenaciously in court, arguing that as a private entity it was not subject to the public records law. After two trips to the TN Court of Appeals, the deposition of CCA's general counsel and a denial of review by the TN Supreme Court, Friedmann achieved victory in 2013 and established new case law requiring CCA to comply with public records requests because it is the functional equivalent of a government agency.
  • California's Deloitte Dilemma: The Politics of Programming and Public Contracts. A KCRA Investigation

    When payments for California's unemployed were delayed after a computer upgrade, KCRA began digging into the cause of the delay. What reporter Sharokina Shams and producer Dave Manoucheri found was a state agency that was downplaying the problems with their new computer system and grossly under-reporting the number of people affected. Utilizing California Public Records Act requests (similar to FOIA) and whistleblowers inside the department, KCRA exposed the fact that California had purchased a computer system plagued with problems. Within a week they had determined that multiple states had hired the same company, Deloitte, LLC, and those states were experiencing similar problems. With more digging Shams and Manoucheri found that Deloitte had also donated hundreds of thousands to political campaigns and lobbied heavily with the state. KCRA found hundreds of millions paid to the company for IT contracts, failed previous projects and a new contract due to be awarded that would costs half a billion dollars. Ultimately, KCRA's investigation led to legislative hearings, the creation of legislation to change how the state writes IT contracts, and revealed that more than 40 states are waiting in the wings to upgrade their computer systems and the federal Department of Labor anticipates similar problems in all those states.
  • Rhode Island Priest Sex Abuse Letters

    In 2012 and early 2013, three Catholic priests were removed from duty at parishes in Rhode Island after credible allegations of sexual abuse against them surfaced. Several adult victims came forward to report assaults that happened decades earlier. In each case, the Diocese of Providence sent a letter describing the abuse and the circumstances to Rhode Island State Police. But because of Rhode Island's brief Statute of Limitations, as short as three years in some cases, there was no way to prosecute the priests criminally. Victims were also unable to bring civil lawsuits in most cases. NBC 10 wanted to know how many other Rhode Island priests had been credibly accused of sexual abuse but never charged with child molestation or rape. While the Diocese of Providence is not subject to public records laws, Rhode Island State Police maintained copies of the letters and must comply with the state's open records regulations. Over a six month period, public records requests revealed 45 letters sent to State Police by the Diocese during the past decade. The letters gave new insight into what victims experienced and how they were treated once they came forward. They also raised questions about why some cases were apparently reported to State Police, while others were not.
  • Empty-desk epidemic

    A groundbreaking examination of internal Chicago Public Schools records exposed a grievous injustice and sparked two new state laws and a powerful push for reform. Nearly 32,000 of the city's K-8 grade students — or roughly 1 in 8 —miss a month or more of class per year, while some youngsters vanish from the attendance rolls for years at a stretch, the newspaper's investigation of protected student-level data found. Chicago officials were publishing upbeat statistics that masked the devastating pattern of absenteeism -- even as the missed days robbed youth of their futures and cost taxpayers millions in funding keyed to attendance. The flood of missed days disproportionately impact impoverished African-American youngsters as well as children with disabilities. The journalism drew heavily on social science research methods. In one of many examples, the lead reporter became a Nieman fellow, qualified as a Harvard University researcher on human subjects, then worked through Harvard's Institutional Review Board to obtain and analyze Chicago's attendance database under a contract he crafted between Harvard and the Chicago Public Schools. Based on that research, the reporters subsequently found a way to obtain crucial parts of the data through public records requests.
  • Medical Marijuana

    Loose restrictions in state law and scant oversight by regulators have allowed people to hijack Oregon’s medical marijuana program for purposes voters never intended, The Oregonian’s investigation revealed. Most patients are using the drug to treat chronic pain rather than terminal illness, far more marijuana is grown than patients consume, and traffickers ship the excess out of state for profit. At the heart of the yearlong investigation was a wide range of public records. First there were written documents: court records and police reports on medical marijuana growers; disciplinary actions against doctors who admit patients to the state program; internal policy manuals; and correspondence between regulators and doctors. Then there were electronic data. Through months of negotiations, the paper persuaded state health authorities to release a database of participants in the marijuana program that protected patient confidentiality. A separate database on Oregon State Police traffic stops helped us to demonstrate the widespread diversion of medical marijuana to the black market. Among the investigation’s original results, published as an occasional series: Communities in southern Oregon have concentrations of marijuana patients 10 times the statewide average; Police patrolling Oregon’s highways now seize more West Coast medical marijuana than pot grown outside the program; The state places few limitations on felons participating in the program, and dozens of trafficking prosecutions involve medical marijuana cardholders with existing criminal histories; Fifty-two children are legally permitted to use pot under the state program, with limited input from pediatricians or specialists treating their underlying illnesses; Nine doctors signed off on more than half the patients in the program, and 75 percent of patients used doctors with improbably high caseloads.
  • Campaign 2012 - Revealing Dark Money and Big Data

    The 2012 elections were marked by two major new developments. Anonymous money poured into races on an unprecedented scale. And campaigns used troves of data that people previously considered confidential to “micro-target” voters. Our goal was to shine a light on these tactics, using old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, public records and innovative computer applications. Throughout the year, our series, “Campaign 2012: Revealing Dark Money and Big Data,” showed readers how groups and campaigns exploited everything from loopholes in federal regulations to Internet surfing habits to win votes.
  • The Medill Justice Project: FOIA Fight

    Against considerable resistance from police, prosecutors and the medical establishment, The Medill Justice Project, through the hard-hitting reporting of undergraduate student journalists, in 2012 took on a largely overlooked and misunderstood area of the criminal-justice system: shaken-baby syndrome. Scores of mothers, fathers, day care workers and other caregivers throughout the United States are being accused of violently shaking children, inflicting fatal head injuries. Our relentless examination of this issue—through our published investigative articles, breaking stories, fight for public records, FOIA requests and appeals and motions in federal court—has provided a deeper, nuanced understanding of this complex, controversial subject. Shaken-baby syndrome has received scant in-depth examination in the media even as emerging science divides many in the medical community.