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Why LAPD officers escaped serious discipline after shootings

Posted on 07 April 2018 (0)
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By David Crane / Los Angeles Daily News

It was a spur-of-the-moment drug bust that went bad. Terribly bad.

With a marked $5 bill in hand, Los Angeles Police Department narcotics detective Arthur Gamboa leaned against a wall on a busy downtown sidewalk.

“Weed, Klonopin, weed, Klonopin …” That’s what Dale Garrett, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound black man was chanting that May day in 2011, the detective told investigators. He “snatched” the $5 bill from the officer and kept walking, Gamboa said. When the veteran detective protested, he said Garrett, 51, turned to face him and unfurled a long serrated knife. The detective fired two shots, fatally.

But the autopsy showed both shots entered Garrett’s back. And when another officer overturned Garrett’s body, he found a knife that was folded, not open. The civilian Police Commission found the evidence contradicted Gamboa’s version and ruled he violated department policy.

The two officers behind the sting operation were suspended for 22 days — a punishment rare for the LAPD, both for its length and that such discipline happened at all. Most shootings are deemed problem-free.

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Nashville pension fund leads U.S. in risky investments

Posted on 07 April 2018 (0)

pensionsNashville’s public pension system invested city workers’ retirement funds in the nation’s largest share of risky, high-priced investments among its peers. After eight years, the aggressive strategy shows promise, but it’s not clear if it’s worth the risk to retirees, or the millions paid to Wall Street managers.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, Nashville’s pension managers have been shifting taxpayer money into junk bonds, hedge funds, troubled mortgages, private equity funds and other alternatives to conservative stocks and bonds. If successful, these “alternative investments” can earn greater profits, but they also demand high fees and carry the risk of heavy losses.

Nashville’s investments have shown mixed results. After taking out fees, the city’s fund grew by 4.7 percent a year since 2008, on average, while the Standard & Poors 500 gained 6.6 percent.

Pension systems across the country, looking to improve their balance sheets, have moved into this once-rarefied realm of Wall Street financiers. But Nashville stands out for its large share of so-called alternatives.

The city has placed 57 percent of its $2.8 billion fund into alternative investments, including real estate. Among its peers, Nashville had the highest share in fiscal year 2015, according a Tennessean analysis of National Association of State Retirement Administrators data for funds with $1 billion to $5 billion in assets. The national average among all public funds, by contrast, is 17 percent.

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This is an ongoing series into Nashville’s pension fund. Here are two other stories:

How much does Wall Street make from Nashville’s pension fund? Nobody knows.

Nashville pension fund paying Wall Street 40% more than previously disclosed

LA charter school under review after principal charges $100K

Posted on 07 April 2018 (0)
Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News

Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News

Just a 10-minute drive from the school, the waiter brought the table a $95 bottle of fine Syrah wine. Dimly-lit Monty’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, with its red booths and white linen, doubled as a high school meeting room that Wednesday night, Principal David Fehte says. And on many other nights.

In 2014 and 2015, Fehte, who leads El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills, charged more than $15,500 at Monty’s to his school-issued American Express card.

“When we’re doing business, we’re doing business,” Fehte said recently as he walked to his BMW in the San Fernando Valley campus parking lot.

He also paid for first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms with his school-funded credit card.

Fehte acknowledged charging El Camino for personal travel and, after the Daily News inquired, said he reimbursed the public school.

Over the two years, Fehte charged more than $100,000 to the card, according to a Los Angeles Daily News analysis. El Camino receives about $32 million in government funds annually, accounting for 94 percent of its revenue.
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This investigation prompted investigations by the district and led to the resignation of Fehte and other members of the school’s board of directors.

Here’s the other main story from the investigation:
El Camino High principal moonlighted as NBA scout, billed travel to school

And here’s some of the aftermath:
El Camino Real’s principal to resign under agreement with LAUSD

The Cost of Jobs: What do taxpayers get for Tennessee business subsidies?

Posted on 06 April 2018 (0)

amazonClarksville, a military hub north of Nashville with 150,000 residents, has awarded multimillion-dollar property tax breaks to large corporations, including Google, without publicly disclosing the value of the subsidies or tracking hiring at those companies.

“It’s a verbal check,” said Mike Evans, executive director of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Industrial Development Board. “Do we have a piece of paper or a form filled out? We don’t. But it’s a system.”

More than $2.5 billion in subsidies such as grants, tax breaks and tax credits are given to businesses in the state each year, according to an analysis by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

An investigation by the largest four media organizations in Tennessee — The Tennessean, The Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News Sentinel and (Chattanooga) Times Free Press — found statewide that many officials and agencies do not track or disclose the number of jobs created by subsidy deals.

That lack of accountability means taxpayers and leaders can’t effectively decide whether individual subsidy deals are a good investment or if the money would be better spent on education, infrastructure or another jobs program.

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Water enforcement dropped in business-friendly Haslam administration

Posted on 06 April 2018 (0)
Mike Brown / USAT Network

Mike Brown / USAT Network

Year after year, the inspectors found the same violations. Norfolk Southern Railway, they noted, allowed construction dirt to wash into tributaries of the Wolf River, a hunting source for bald eagles that flows from northern Mississippi to Memphis.

The railroad had graded much of 380 acres of farmland, exposing tan earth before paving the way for the Memphis Regional Intermodal Facility. With state-of-the-art cranes, the terminal would allow Norfolk Southern to rapidly transfer cargo containers from trains to trucks. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, shovel in hand, posed at the 2011 groundbreaking and hailed the potential transportation jobs.

That same year — Haslam’s first in office — his administration began reshaping the state Department of Environment and Conservation to be more “customer focused.” Haslam’s hand-picked commissioner merged the three water protection divisions into one, shed a quarter of their positions, and nearly stopped penalizing polluters. The agency prided itself on helping companies comply with the law before resorting to fines.

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Supervisor had 2 take-home cars, but denied it

Posted on 25 November 2015 (0)
Mike Reicher, L.A. Daily News

Mike Reicher, L.A. Daily News

On the Los Angeles County government’s official list of employee take-home vehicles, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas looks very frugal. His assigned car, a 9-year-old Chrysler 300 Limited sedan, cost the county about half as much as the next supervisor’s. But newly released vehicle maintenance records show that Ridley-Thomas, for most of last year, actually had two cars at his disposal. He mainly drove a 2012 version of the same model, a $39,000 taxpayer-owned car, that was essentially off the books.

The documents reveal that Ridley-Thomas, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was stretching the county’s vehicle resources more than other supervisors, and that he misrepresented his situation when challenged. Workers maintained, cleaned and fueled his two working cars for seven months, according to the records. They washed one of the sedans nearly three times a week.

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Why the DWP owns an empty, $150K/year lodge

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Mike Baker, Los Angeles Daily News

Mike Baker, Los Angeles Daily News

A seven-bedroom historic lodge crowns the highest hill of Boulder City, Nev. Under a clay tile roof, its sunroom commands sweeping views of Lake Mead. A live-in caretaker stands by, ready to serve five-course gourmet meals on fine china.

But he’s usually dining alone. The house’s owners, the customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, live 300 miles away. “No Trespassing. Private Road,” warns a sign.

In the eastern Mojave Desert, this guest lodge is rarely used by the department. Instead, the DWP pays nearby hotels more than $500,000 each year to house workers, and it reserves the lodge for high-level meetings, despite owning an office building minutes away. Ratepayers, meanwhile, spent more than $153,000 last fiscal year to run the 1931 Spanish Colonial Revival house.

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Mesa Water’s $500,000 rebranding

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Orange County Register

Native American musicians blessed the “ancestral waters,” valets parked cars for 150 “VIP” guests and $50,000 event planners passed out catered custom cookies shaped like water drops and redwood trees – $1,500 worth of cookies.

Last month’s unveiling of a revamped water filtration facility is just a small example of Mesa Water District’s lavish spending on marketing and communications.

While raising rates, the public provider of Costa Mesa’s drinking water has increased its communications spending by 300 percent in four years. It now wields a $1.25 million annual budget that dwarfs those at similar water districts. The district serves just 110,000 customers.

People don’t have a choice in their water provider, yet district officials want to pump up their reputation. They say not enough ratepayers know their name, which could be a problem during natural disasters, or when officials need to pass a bond measure. But an underlying motivation, board meeting minutes show, may be their desire to remain an independent agency in the face of criticism. To raise their profile, Mesa officials have paid six figures to public relations consultants and staff.

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ALSO READ: Mesa Water drops branding campaign after backlash

ALSO READ: Mesa Water denied copyright for pricey logo

Officials get cash for concerts, funerals, parties

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register

Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register

Orange County Register

On Thursday evenings during the summer, the elected directors of the Midway City Sanitary District enjoy the Westminster Concerts in the Park and some charge trash and sewer ratepayers for a “day of service” – $207.

All five of the sewage directors attended the 2012 series, which featured a local bagpipe group. Midway City board members Frank Cobo and Allan Krippner claimed meeting pay, according to public records, for four shows total.

It’s about “interacting with the people whom we serve,” Krippner said. “Believe me. You don’t get rich on this little job.”

The bagpipe concerts are one example of how directors are compensated at 15 Orange County special districts, small independent agencies responsible for water, sewer or trash removal.

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Could supervisor’s votes be conflicts?

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Orange County Register

It was a cozy affair – a gathering of high-powered Orange County hospital leaders paying tribute to county Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

About 15 executives huddled with Nguyen on Feb. 28, 2012, in the Lemon Heights home of Dan Brothman, CEO of Western Medical Center Santa Ana and senior vice president of operations for Integrated Healthcare Holdings Inc. They noshed on meatballs in Brothman’s family room and inked $5,000 worth of checks for Nguyen’s summer re-election.

Brothman would later describe the fundraiser as a “meet and greet” with Nguyen.

Two days later, Nguyen voted as a trustee for Orange County’s health network for the poor – Cal-Optima – to pay $750,000 to IHHI-owned hospitals to settle a lawsuit over unpaid bills. A unanimous vote March 1, 2012, by five members of CalOptima’s board of directors was held in closed session and has still not been disclosed by CalOptima.

The 2009 breach-of-contract lawsuit by IHHI alleged CalOptima failed to pay Integrated Healthcare hospitals for $2 million worth of services to Medi-Cal patients covered by CalOptima. Court records show it is one of a number of similar suits filed by hospitals against the agency.

The Orange County Register confirmed the vote and the settlement through court documents and interviews with officials involved in the case.

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