San Diego public hospital administrator paid over $1 million per year

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A hospital administrator in San Diego County turned up on California State Controller John Chiang’s salary database in no. 2 position, just shy of Robert Rizzo – the former City of Bell administrator accused of looting the blue-collar suburb of Los Angeles.

Michael Covert, CEO of Palomar Pomerado Health, a two-hospital public district, was paid $1.15 million in 2009. The information was only disclosed this week after The San Diego Union-Tribune questioned the hospital why its information was not reported last month with other public health care districts. Hospital representatives claimed that it has technical difficulties uploading the salary data to state computers.

Covert declined to discuss his salary with the Union-Tribune, although a hospital official, Theldore Kleiter, said “We have to compete for talent with all of the for-profit and nonprofit health systems. If you want the top management, that’s what you have to pay.”

Others were not as convinced that the million-dollar salary was justified. “Is this really rocket science?” asked Kris Vosbergh of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “We’re talking about paying an administrator more than we pay a doctor, who makes life and death decisions.”

“Essentially, this is a bureaucrat.”

The state salary database project was begun last year to provide the public with accurate information regarding salaries earned by public servants.

“What we found in the absence of transparency is a breeding ground for waste, fraud and abuse,” state spokesman Garin Casaleggio said of the data in general, not any particular person. “This provides the public with a snapshot of what public compensation includes and allows them to weigh the figures along with the public benefit.”

Public hospital employees dominate the top end of the salary database.  Eight of the top twenty public positions are held by hospital administrators and four of the top twenty are physicians.

Other highly paid officials listed in the database include Washington Hospital CEO (Freemont, CA) at $905,084; the Orange County chief counsel at $692,768; the Upper San Gabriel Valley water agency manager at $646,902 and the Downey (pop. 107,000) Police Chief at $623,664.

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CALPERS lawyer delivers report on Board bribery and corruption

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A lawyer hired to investigate bribes and kickbacks at one of the nation’s largest pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, said on Monday its former board member Alfred Villalobos, corrupted top officials there and likely cost the fund tens of millions of dollars in extra investment fees.

Independent attorney Philip Khinda reported that Villalobos, a so-called “placement agent,” corrupted five senior CALPERS officials including former CEO Fred Buenrostro, former board members Charles Valdes, Kurato Shimada and Robert Carlson, and former investment officer Leon Shahinian.

Both Villalobos and Buenrostro have been sued by the state’s attorney general and federal prosecutors are conducting their own investigation.

Authorities claim that a handful of investment firms paid Villalobos and his cronies over $50 million in secret fees to help make introductions and convince CALPERS executives to do business with them. Buenrostro attempted to shield Villalobos from legal liability by signing papers saying that CALPERS was aware of the fees that Villalobos was collecting.

In his 56-page report, Khinda said that Villalobos created a perception that investment firms needed to pay for connections to secure business for their firms.  The firms likely inflated their fees they charged CALPERS in order to offset the secret fees paid to Villalobos.

Since the scandal was discovered, Khinda has renegotiated deals with the investment firms that were clients of Villalobos and obtained over $300 million in fee discounts.

In a matter unrelated to the investment firms, Khinda’s report provides details about a $4 million consulting paid to Villalobos by Medco Health Solutions, a New Jersey company that handles the CALPERS employees’ drug benefit plan.

In 2005, when the drug administration contract came up for bidding, a copy of an internal CALPERS report was leaked to Medco that showed that the company was the leading contender for the contract. The contract was worth $8 million annually.

After Medco was awarded the contract, the company began paying Villalobos an additional $20,000 per month in consulting fees until 2009, when the scandal was first reported.

CALPERS has since enacted new rules and reform procedures including a prohibition on the payment of “placement” fees by investment firms.

The Sacramento Bee

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N.J. toll road workers cash in on millions of dollars in bonuses

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Employees at the state’s two major toll roads were paid $9.7 in extra pay last year for unused sick time, vacation time and holiday bonuses, according to an investigative report in the Asbury Park Press.

Last October, state Comptroller A. Matthew Boxer outlined what he called “$43 million in waste” at the agency including extra pay and bonuses to toll collectors and managers. Boxer said during 2008 and 2009, bonuses alone totaled about $30 million.

Despite the state’s fiscal woes and the scathing report, another $700,000 has been paid out since the report was released.

Some of the payments and bonuses were labeled “snow removal” or “holiday” bonuses, although those employees had already been paid overtime for their work on those days.

In over 30 instances, payouts at retirement exceeded the employees’ actual salaries.

In one example, a district equipment manager making $113,414 retired in June with $134,621 in bonus payments, and a retiring crew supervisor making $88,450 took home an extra $122,082 when he left in April. Both men were at the agency for more than 30 years.

Thomas Feeney, a Turnpike Authority spokesman, said most of the payments were for unused sick time, although separation bonuses of $500 to $600 are given for each year of service when employees retire.

“The Christie administration has said it intends to remove payments like that when new contracts are negotiated this year,” Feeney said.

Now that Christie administration has discussed privatizing toll collection in New Jersey, workers are indicating that they might be agreeable to wage concessions in their next contract.

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Oklahoma legislator wants key evidence suppressed in bribery case

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An Oklahoma state lawmaker has asked a judge overseeing his bribery proceedings to suppress evidence based on a 1979 Supreme Court decision and a passage from the state’s constitution.

Rep. Randy Terrill is accused of offering a bribe to another lawmaker, former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich. The politicians were charged under a 1974 law that says offering a candidate a job, to induce them to drop out of a race, is bribery.

Prosecutors claim that Terrill and Leftwich worked together to attempt to create an $80,000 position in the medical examiner’s office, specifically intended for Leftwich, providing she agreed to not to run for re-election.  They allege Terrill used “political influence and intimidation” to try to force the appointment.

Terrill is asking Special Judge Stephen Alcorn to have the evidence suppressed before the preliminary hearings.

Terrill’s lawyer, Stephen Jones, wrote in a brief that the case was similar to one in 1979 involving former U. S. Henry Helstoski, a New Jersey Democrat, who was accused of taking $8,000 for introducing legislation helping Chileans immigrate into the U.S.  In that case, the Supreme Court ruled in Helstoski’s favor based on legislative protection in the U.S. Constitution.

Jones also joined a motion filed by Leftwich asking the judge dismiss the case based on an interpretation of the Oklahoma Constitution that says: “Senators and representatives … for any speech or debate in either House shall not be questioned in any other place.”

Prosecutors say the defense position is simplistic, overbroad and inaccurate.

The Oklahoman

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New York state lawmakers indicted on bribery and money laundering charges

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N.Y. State Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland surrendered to authorities on Thursday, after being charged for allegedly selling their influence to hospitals, real estate developers and lobbyists.

N.Y. Sen. Carl Kruger allegedly took over $1 million to grant political favors.

Prosecutors said that Kruger, a longtime Brooklyn Democrat, received over $1 million in bribes since 2006. Much of his illegal activities were connected to prominent Albany lobbyist Richard Lipsky, with whom he shared fees, and then took “the very official acts in favor of which Lipsky had been paid to lobby.”

In one instance, Kruger helped steer $500,000 in taxpayer monies to one of Lipsky’s clients.

The court documents claim that Kruger regularly worked with Lipsky to ensure that his clients received favorable treatment on issues that required government approval. Kruger sought to conceal the bribes and kickbacks, passing them through a bogus company called Adex Management, and then further through a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development.

Olympian was controlled by Dr. Michael Turano, the son of Kruger’s close friend Dorothy Turano, a local community board director.


Boyland, a four-term Democrat, was hired as a “no-show employee” at Brookdale Hospital, which at the time, was seeking approval in Albany for its expansion plans. Boyland picked up $177,000 under the sham arrangement.

Besides the lawmakers, several others were indicted in illegal schemes. David P. Rosen, of Medisys Health Systems, who gave Boyland the “no-show” job; hospital executives Robert Aquino and Solomon Kalish; real estate developer Aaron Malinsky and Dr. Turano.

The 53-page complaint detailed the FBI’s investigation which included bugs on Kruger and Lipsky’s phones, recording months of conversations and regular surveillance.

The men were charged on various counts of bribery, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering.

Preet Bharara, of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said “Once again I am here to report, sadly, that the crisis of corruption continues in Albany.  Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman it should be a jarring wakeup call,” he added. “Instead, it seems like no matter how many times the alarm goes off Albany just hits the snooze button.”

Information from The New York Times

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Mayor of Tamarac, Florida indicted on bribery charges

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The mayor of Tamarac, Florida has become the latest Broward County public official to be charged with corruption.

Prosecutors say 57-year-old Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco accepted $21,000 in campaign contributions from developers in exchange for support for their housing projects. She is charged with bribery, official misconduct, conspiracy and unlawful compensation.

Flansbaum-Talabisco surrendered Wednesday at the Broward County jail and will be released on $9,000 bail. Court records did not indicate if she had a lawyer.

The two developers involved previously pleaded guilty to unlawful compensation charges. Their dealings have also resulted in corruption charges against two other Tamarac officials and two Broward County officials.

Tamarac is a community of 60,000, just a few miles west of Ft. Lauderdale.

The Associated Press

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Indiana Secretary of State faces new charges following voter fraud indictment

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The newly-elected Indiana Secretary of State, Charlie White, is facing new charges only one week after he was indicted on seven felony counts, including voter fraud, perjury, theft and financial fraud – all stemming from allegations that he lied about his address on government and loan documents.

The theft charge stems from allegations that he took a paycheck from a local town council after the date he claimed to have moved.

Two special prosecutors have asked the Indiana inspector general to investigate whether White improperly accessed a file prepared by former Secretary of State Todd Rokita detailing evidence against him, after he took over the office in January.

The file contained a special report which was prepared for the Indiana Recount Commission, which in December, decided 2-1 that White was eligible to run for office even though he wasn’t properly registered at the time.

The report was given to the prosecutors, John Dowd and Dan Sigler, who presented the information to the Hamilton County grand jury. The grand jury indicted White based on the evidence.

Only last week, White was indicted on charges that he voted in Hamilton County in the May 2010 primary using the address of his ex-wife. He claims that it was an honest mistake and blamed it on his busy schedule.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels called for White to step down but White said in a statement “I believe the evidence will prove that I did not intentionally break any laws. But more importantly, I will continue to do the job I was elected to do and carry on serving the needs of Hoosier taxpayers.”

White won by a large margin in the November election. If convicted, he will be required to step down from office.

Indystar.com

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