And don’t doubt we would see the same thing here if Ohio Governor Ted Strickland wasn’t beating the drum about vetoing expansion of charter schools.
The report released this week by Colorado Ethics Watch chronicles the ethical transgressions of some of Colorado’s most colorful political characters over the last year.
Highlights of the report include:
Colorado State Board of Education Member Bob Schaffer
Schaffer received the “Dishonorable Mention” award for failing to recuse himself from votes.
One conflict of interest stems from campaign contributions Schaffer received from David and Ann Brennan, who operate White Hat Management — an embattled charter school firm that runs 50 Life Skills Centers around the nation. When the Denver Public School Board voted to close its poor-performing school, Life Skills appealed to the Colorado State Board of Education. Schaffer cast the the tie-breaking vote, forcing the Denver schools to continue the Life Skills program, and thus White Hat’s dip into an estimated $8 million in tax money shunted from the local public schools since 2003.
Schaffer has also previously failed to disclose conflicts of interest in other state board votes regarding Poudre School District charter schools, where his wife is a board member and their son is a student.
The Colorado State Board of Education has since adopted an ethics policy though critics contend it is weak and easily circumvented by ignoring conflicts of interest when the member’s vote is needed to achieve a quorum.
Read the full report at Colorado Ethics Watch.
Heartwarming, isn’t it? Especially when you see how much money Brennan, his wife and White Hat have put in the coffers of Ohio legislators.
I know – seems rather inflammatory. But there’s no other way to say it. Rod Coker of White Hat lied on WCPN last year. He admitted it. So when I see his name as the spokesperson in the second news story below, well, excuse me for being a bit skeptical.
In Pensacola, Florida: Student’s Future Hangs on School’s Closure:
White Hat Management, which runs Life Skills Center of Escambia County on H Street, is pulling out June 30 over a financial dispute with the charter school’s board of directors.
“What are we going to do if they close?” asked student Marquita Scott, 17. “I want to graduate and be the first person in my family to go to college.”
n 2006, the Escambia School Board voted as a cost-saving measure to close Dixon Education Center’s doors, and a group of businessmen opened the charter school.
Like its predecessor, the charter school offers a second chance for high school students who have dropped out, struggling academically or were expelled from a regular high school.
At issue is more than $580,000 that White Hat Management officials said is owed by the school’s board of directors. “We have not been paid since November 2007,” White Hat attorney Andrew Kantor said.
At a Friday afternoon meeting at the school, members of the board of directors approved White Hat’s request to terminate its contract at the end of the school year.
Directors, however, disputed the amount owed to the company.
The controversy centers around a day-care center opened at the school last year by the school’s board of directors.
Board president John Wyche said the day care was opened so teen mothers would have a place to leave their children while in class.
The directors’ attorney, Scott A. Remington, said White Hat owes the school about $245,000 for failing to properly file paperwork to secure day-care funding.
In other coverage of the same situation, we encounter White Hat’s Rod Coker, the guy who lied on WCPN last year, talking about the case (this news report via a blog entry seems to indicate that White Hat says it’s owed more than $500,000 – for just four months of services?):
“We have not received payment for several months,” said Rodd Coker with White Hat. ”We will not continue to operate under that situation. We can terminate our contract after 14 days, but we are committed to operating this center until June 30.”
Attorney Scott Remington, who represents Life Skills Center, said the problem originated in December of last year when the centers board of directors reportedly asked White Hat to amend their contract, allowing for the operation of a child care center.
Remington claims the management company, which is responsible for campus maintenance, employee benefits and salaries among other things, never responded to their request and then grossly underreported the number of children in the childcare program.
Remington said that clerical error lead to the school receiving less money. Remington then asked White Hat to waive the arbitration clause in their current contract because the act of arbitration might impede the school boards mission to operate within Florida Sunshine Law.
To add to the financial woes of the center, the 2008 budget was balanced at $2 million, but the school only received a little over $1 million due to fewer registrants than previously expected.
And this is why I thank Ted Strickland every time he says he’ll veto more charter schools.
Against a five year old. I can tell you, when my kids have issues on the school bus, the district invites me in to watch. Here, we have a school and its “corporate owner” – the article’s words, not mine – refusing to show the parent of the alleged victim the video of what happened.
Daleelah, a Kindergarten student, says a boy grabbed her by the neck and began choking and slapping her. Making the situation even more serious, Daleelah is still recovering from tonsil surgery just a few weeks ago.
Her mother, Erica Ali, told Channel 3 News, “I want some answers and instead I’m getting the runaround from Hope Academy.”
Ali says there is a video security camera onboard her daughter’s bus, which is operated by the Canton City Schools. However, Canton School officials say that they gave the tape to the principal at Hope Academy.
The charter school refused to show the video to the victim’s mother or show it to Channel 3 News.
Hope Academy and their corporate owner, White Hat Management, refused to let the school principal respond to any questions from a reporter.
A school official told Daleelah’s mother that the student who attacked the five-year-old has “behavioral issues,” but refused to elaborate.
David Brennan – do you have any granddaughters this age? Do you remember when your kids were this age? Would you stand for this kind of alleged treatment if it was a public school – or any school for that matter?
Hello people – public dollars. For-profit corporate ownership. Not a good mix for being in charge of our kids. Again.
Excellent coverage by John Michael Spinelli. No suprise. Thanks for your hard work, John.
Calls for resignation so far:
Tribune-Chronicle (editorial board)
Ohio.com (Ohio GOP)
Middletown Journal (Kevin DeWine)
Canton Repository (editorial)
The deciding consideration in favor of Mr. Chandra is his management experience. The attorney general’s office is a large enterprise. Moving from a small law firm and Senate office would be a big leap for Sen. Dann who has shown a penchant for inattention to detail.
Mmmmmble mmmmmmbl damn tape.
Just the messenger, from Ohio.com:
Gov. Ted Strickland says that Attorney General Marc Dann going unpunished while forcing out three top aides appears to show a double standard in his office.
Dann acknowleged on Friday that he had an affair with an employee and two aides were fired and another resigned after his office released a report of an investigation into sexual harassment complaints fired by two other women.
Strickland says he has not read the report, but added “there seems to be some double standard” in that Dann stays while the others were let go.
Mmmmumble mummmble mummmble damn packing tape mmmble mmmble mmmbl.
Stankoski and Stout said they felt vindicated by the findings and the recommendation that their former supervisor, Anthony Gutierrez, be fired, but didn’t feel the discipline goes far enough.
“I’m relieved,” Stankoski said. “I came here to start a career…I was once proud to say I worked for the attorney general. Now it’s become an embarrassment.”
Stout said she was “somewhat relieved” but didn’t feel the recommended discipline goes far enough. “This involved other people in the office.”
Both women said that Attorney General Marc Dann, a Democrat elected in 2006, contributed to the top-down “hostile work environment” that the report characterized.
“If it’s OK for him to do these things, then it’s OK for everybody else,” Stout said.
Dann’s office today offered to restore Stout to her former position (she had been transferred), and said it would provide counseling for both women.
Hmmm. That last sentence. Those last two words. Not what I was thinking.
From the Columbus Dispatch:
Friday, May 2, 2008 1:15 PM
This is the text of the statement delivered at a news conference today by the attorney general:
Serious allegations have been made about the conduct of people in my office. Today’s report shows that these allegations are substantiated.
For the reasons detailed in this report, I am accepting the decisions of First Assistant Attorney General Tom Winters to discharge Anthony Gutierrez and Leo Jennings III and accepting Ed Simpson’s decision to step down as Chief of Policy and Administration.
I hired them with great hopes.
I believed they brought strengths and good qualities to the job. Unfortunately, they let me down.
I take full responsibility.
As disappointed as I am with the conduct of others, I am even more disappointed in myself.
I did not create an atmosphere in my public and personal life that is consistent with the important mission of the Office of the Attorney General and more worthy of the great work that we have been accomplishing for the people of the State of Ohio.
I am heartbroken by my failure to recognize the problems being created and by my failure to stop them.
I should have been much more aggressive to make sure that those who violated my trust were disciplined immediately.
I should have put in place a management structure that would have addressed these types of problems long before they ever became front page news stories or more importantly, personal tragedies.
I have not conducted myself in a way that is consistent with my values as a husband, a father, and my responsibilities as the Attorney General of Ohio. At a difficult time in my marriage, I got involved in a romantic relationship with a member of my staff. That conduct was intrinsically wrong.
My conduct has caused my family and my employees immense hurt and embarrassment.
To Alyssa and my children, to the employees of the office of the Attorney General, I apologize from the bottom of my heart for my human failings.
My errors in judgment have allowed the creation of a sideshow that has played out in the news. This sideshow has distracted attention from the good work being done by the Attorney General’s office.
- taking on the biggest insurance companies for fixing prices on business insurance.
- putting the full force of Ohio’s law enforcement and consumer protection machinery against those who defrauded Ohioans out of their houses.
- and extracting millions from pharmaceutical companies who have ripped off the state and individual Ohioans.
- and every single day, even now, professionally representing state government.
Here’s what I must do now.
I must do everything I possibly can to repair the negative reflection that has been cast upon the great lawyers, administrative staff and law enforcers hired in the past 16 months and who were here when I took office.
I will work tirelessly to re-earn the public’s trust.
To continue these good works for the people of Ohio—and to regain their trust—I will make the following changes:
First, I have asked Jim Friedman, former Chief of Staff to Governor John Gilligan, to head up a small working group that will identify changes in management structure and personnel. I envision this as a second transition.
I am honored and grateful that he will bring the wisdom and insight needed to create an administrative backbone worthy of the great legal work that is being done in our office.
In addition to the personnel changes already announced, I am accepting the specific recommendations included in the Espy report and First Assistant Tom Winters’ statement. To ensure faith in the results of this investigation, we will continue to strictly follow our office’s sexual harassment policy.
In addition, should neither the complainants nor those against whom disciplinary action has been taken request an outside review of this investigation, I will ask for one myself. The outside reviewer will be a person whose credentials are beyond question. As I have recused myself from this investigation, the selection of that individual will be made by Mr. Winters.
And, we will cooperate fully with the ongoing, independent investigation being conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
We will reorganize our structure and hiring policies and procedures to recruit the best people for the job. New policies will be developed and implemented in the coming months and weeks to address fraternization among employees, appropriate use of email, and respectful communication between employees, particularly between supervisors and subordinates.
The State Department of Administrative Services will conduct an audit of the General Services Division. This review will cover all of our policy and procedures.
BCI Superintendent Robert Fiatal will review our policy and practice regarding the issuance of undercover plates. No such plates will be issued to state vehicles unless there is a specific and identifiable governmental purpose.
As John Wayne once said, “Life is getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.”
Today, I’m getting up and dusting myself off by accepting responsibility, apologizing, and making necessary changes. And I’m doing this because nothing, least of all my shortcomings, should stand in the way of the important work we are doing.
The press conference of Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann regarding an internal investigation triggered by employee complaints related to sexual harassment can be viewed here.
The written report prepared by Ben Espy and Jules Pfeiffer related to the same complaints can be read, along with transcripts of testimony given during the investigation here.
Just put in “marc dann” in Google News and you will see more than you can ever consume in news about today’s announcements.
Here’s a live-blog of the end of Ben Espy’s press conference and all of Marc Dann’s conference (no links yet to the press conference or transcripts or the report itself yet).
I have a conflict of interest in covering future developments related to this situation and won’t be posting about it except in a reportorial way. I was not asked to stop blogging or otherwise curtail my freedom of speech. The opposite was, in fact, made known to me. However, I’m choosing to do so of my volition.
As I disclosed in the live-blog, my husband is a partner at the same law firm as Jim Friedman, the individual who will be overseeing the AG office’s rehabilitation. I have met Jim at least a few times and have absolutely enjoyed every single communication we have had. It gives me a lot of hope that he’s been chosen to make sure that the entire AG office of 1400 people becomes the exact opposite type of work environment as has been described recently and led to the investigation.
I mentioned in this post that the ODP did respond to my requests for action. Todd Hoffman, director of online communications, called me yesterday and we spoke for about 30 minutes. We discussed my concerns, off the record, and I understand that the ODP felt that it could not comment on an ongoing investigation, which it was, yesterday. I was assured that my concerns would be conveyed to Chairman Redfern. I am sure that they were and I do in fact believe that I heard echoes of numerous things I mentioned to Todd yesterday. However, I’m also quite sure that other people most likely voiced similar concerns.
Whether these fixes (see the detail here from Modern Esquire) will be adequate to satisfy not only Ohio voters but particularly Ohio Democrats, and Governor Ted Strickland, in this very vital election year, only time – and probably a lot of money spent on polls – will tell.
Since the investigation is no longer ongoing, I would hope we’ll all be receiving something soon from Chairman Chris Redfern. So far, there’s nothing on the ODP website.
Anyone need a place to live?
Two top employees of Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann were fired and a third has resigned because of an internal investigation of sexual harassment complaints released this morning.
The two longtime Dann friends who shared a Dublin-area condo with him were fired: Anthony Gutierrez, his general services director, and Leo Jennings III, his communications director.
A third longtime friend, Dann’s top nonlegal adviser, Edgar C. Simpson, resigned last night instead of being fired this morning. And Jessica Utovich, Dann’s former scheduler, also quit last night.
More to follow – including a phone call I received from the Ohio Democratic Party yesterday.
Update: Dayton Daily News has nice coverage here.
As a Republican presidential candidate, and as the presumptive GOP nominee, U.S. Sen. John McCain visited Northeast Ohio on Thursday with 47 million reasons to discuss what he thinks ails America’s health care system.
To address what he intends to do about that should he be elected president on Nov. 4, the Arizona senator held a town hall meeting Thursday morning at the Cleveland Clinic.
McCain told the capacity crowd – which included GOP notables such as former U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Party Chairman Bob Bennett and State Rep. Josh Mandel of Lyndhurst, who just returned Wednesday from his second tour of duty in Iraq as a U.S. Marine sergeant – that he wants to return the responsibility and focus of health care to the people.
Plunderbund posted video shot at the Clinic event.
Please read all of Jeff’s post, but here’s the meat of the plan (Jeff includes Ohio politicians’ reactions):
…Although McCain has said that his plan “doesn’t leave anyone behind,” the fact is that it continues the disastrous Bush policy of ignoring the 47 million uninsured Americans.
Kevin Sack spelled it out in a comprehensive comparison of health care plans in the New York Times in March. Both Democratic candidates have plans that focus on universal coverage, although they differ slightly in their approach. McCain’s plan is about using tax policy purportedly to promote competition in the health care marketplace. Assuring coverage for all simply isn’t his priority. He doesn’t even have an estimate of how many of America’s uninsured would likely gain coverage under his plan.
As for what the McCain plan does include, it’s all great news for corporations and bad news for ordinary people. First, he would eliminate the longstanding tax exemption on health benefits paid by employers. Without this incentive, the gradual trend of employers dropping health benefits will accelerate dramatically. As pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, “the result would likely be an erosion of employer-sponsored insurance and an increase in plans bought on the open market.” McCain’s alternative of providing tax credits to individuals for health costs is a classic Republican scheme that gives a big boon to the wealthy but does little good to struggling working families. Those who are poor or have high medical expenses simply can’t afford the up-front costs. (In other words, it’s a lot like the GOP-favored health care savings accounts, which a GAO report just out shows are increasingly popular as a tax shelter for the wealthy.)
Second, McCain would allow policies to be sold across state lines. Cross-border insurance sets up a classic race to the bottom. In other words, it allows “health-insurance companies to escape state regulations they don’t like, such as rules allowing for appeals when companies deny coverage and rules requiring insurers to cover people with various conditions or to cover particular types of treatments. The companies would likely gravitate to the states with the regulations they most favored.” State mandates that could be avoided include coverage for emergency room care (currently required in Ohio but not required in six other states), direct access to OB/GYN, coverage of colorectal cancer screening, and mental health parity. As Redfern said in the conference call, the McCain plan “lowers the bar for what qualifies as adequate health care.”
As for people with pre-existing conditions, McCain has made vague noises about setting up a Medicaid trust fund to help them. That makes no sense, since Medicaid is a program for the poor and pre-existing conditions can make even middle-class or wealthy people uninsurable. This is particularly shocking since McCain himself is a cancer survivor, and cancer survivors are put directly at risk by the changes McCain wants to impose.
I’m not familiar with Mandel’s stance on health care (I’ve never asked), but I imagine it will be posted when his campaign website is complete.
On NPR this morning, Former Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrew (wow, he’s young), who announced yesterday that he was switching his support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, said that if Obama is the nominee, someone who is a Clinton supporter should be selected as the vice presidential running mate.
You can see the list of Superdelegates as of April 17 here. I haven’t been able to find one that allows me to group the delegates by elected office, but looks like there are some good choices for Obama in that Clinton column, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland being one of them.
Yes he can? Yes they should? Rural Ohio voters?