Dallas politician blocks release of police record of disturbance at his home

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City hall lawyers in Dallas have blocked a public records request, from The Dallas Morning News, for records and documents relating to the police department’s visit to the home of Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, saying that they might be “highly intimate or embarrassing” and are “no interest to the public.”

City attorneys instead ordered the police department to refrain from releasing the files, and asked the Texas Attorney General’s office for an opinion on whether they should comply with the request.

The newspaper earlier requested and received a copy of basic police report that provided little in the way of details about why the police were called on Jan. 2 to a disturbance at the home of Caraway and his wife, state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, although the report said it was a “marital disturbance.”

Later, Caraway said that the incident had nothing to do with him and his wife, but instead was caused by a disagreement between two friends, identified as “Arthur and Archie,” who were arguing over the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game.

Caraway briefly addressed the issue once again at a city council meeting, saying that police responded to a marital dispute, contradicting his earlier statement.

City lawyers, in seeking to withhold release of the records are citing common law rights of privacy, contending the information could be withheld if it contains “highly intimate or embarrassing facts” and is “no legitimate concern to the public.”

The DMN, in a letter to the state’s attorney general, argued that the matter is of legitimate concern to the general public, because Caraway is in line for the mayor’s office, if current Mayor Tom Leppert decides to step down and run for the U.S. Senate. Should Caraway become mayor, the public would have the right to expect that a person in that position would act with honesty and integrity.

The letter points out that Caraway did not handle the matter as a private citizen, but as an official of city hall. Instead of placing a call to the police department like any ordinary citizen, he made a direct call to the Chief of Police. And instead of patrol officers responding, a team of elite special investigators were sent.

Later, when a public records request was made for the police documents, instead of acting on his own as a private citizen, Caraway ordered city lawyers to intercede. He also used time at a city council meeting to attempt to dismiss the matter.

For all these reasons, the incident is no longer a personal one, but one in which he involved the city from the very beginning, according to Joel White, a First Amendment attorney for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

“Either this is a public matter or it’s an entirely personal matter, and he’s trying to make it both,” White said. “No. 1, you lied about it. That clearly reflects on his qualifications to hold public office. And second, if he didn’t think that, then why is he making it an issue at a City Council meeting?”

The Dallas Morning News

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Boston politician Chuck Turner sentenced to 3 years behind bars for bribery

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Former Boston Councilor Chuck Turner, who was convicted in October for taking a $1,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent in 2008, was sentenced today to three years in prison by U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock.

Turner, 70, could have received a sentence for as much as 35 years, although his defense team asked for no-prison sentence, pointing to his more than 40 years of community service.

Boston Councilor Chuck Turner was sentenced today to 3 years in prison for taking a $1,000 bribe to help secure a liquor license. (photo The Boston Herald)

Turner was caught in an FBI sting, during which he was recorded on video taking a $1,000 bribe from businessman-turned-FBI informant Ronald Wilburn. During his trial, Turner said he didn’t remember if he looked at the cash changing hands and referred to it as a “preacher’s handshake.”

Around the same time, another prominent African American politician was also taken down by Wilburn and the FBI. Former State Senator Diane Wilkerson took $23,500 in bribes for agreeing to help Wilburn obtain a liquor license for a nightclub he was purportedly planning, and for her influence on a property development deal.

Wilkerson pleaded guilty to eight counts of attempted extortion and was sentenced two weeks ago to 3 ½ years in prison.

The Harvard-educated Turner began his career in politics as a community activist in Boston’s South End, fighting for better housing conditions for poor residents. He was first elected to the Boston City Council in 1999 running on the Green-Rainbow ticket, and representing District 7.

Even though he was under indictment for bribery when he ran for re-election in 2009, his popularity with voters helped him easily retain his seat.

After a jury convicted him of bribery, the city council voted him out of his seat earlier this month, but Turner refused to go quietly. Turner filed a civil lawsuit against the city claiming it had no authority to remove him from office.

U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said of the sentencing, “Mr. Turner was sentenced to prison today because of the choices he made and the actions he took during the course of this case. It is the obligation of every elected official to be ethical and honest, and in this case, Mr. Turner was neither. Public corruption is more than a violation of the law, it erodes the public’s trust in the very system that was designed to protect us.”

In addition to the prison sentence, the Judge Woodlock ordered Turner to return the $1,000 bribe monies.

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Top Mass. probation dept. official resigns in wake of hiring scandal

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Another top official in the state’s probation department has resigned, following an investigation into corrupt hiring practices in the department. The Boston Globe reported Wednesday that Elizabeth V. Tavares, first deputy commissioner, resigned a day before a disciplinary hearing in which she was expected to be fired.

Deputy commissioner Elizabeth V. Tavares resigned in advance of an expected firing, over corrupt hiring practices in the state's probation department.

Tavares was suspended with pay in November, after the release of a report by special counsel Paul F. Ware which said the department’s hiring practices were riddled with fraud and “systemic corruption.”

Ware reported that important jobs were handed out as rewards to campaign donors, after politicians sent letters of recommendation to Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien asking him to intercede on the applicant’s behalf. Thousands of phony job interviews were held to create the illusion of an open hiring process, even though jobs had been already committed to the politically connected.

The report said Tavares was “at the heart of perpetuating the sham selection process” and passed along O’Brien’s favored candidates to a hiring committee that was already told who it should hire. “First Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Tavares was central to the process, admitting that she received names of favored candidates from the commissioner and funneled them to other deputy commissioners and regional supervisors in order to ensure that the commissioner’s candidates received final round interviews,” according to the report.

After the report was released, the State’s Supreme Judicial Court recommended that Probation Commissioner John J. O’Brien be fired, and that Tavares and two others, deputy commissioner Francis M. Wall and legal counsel Christopher J. Bulger, be put on administrative leave “pending the conclusion of disciplinary proceedings.”

A federal grand jury is considering charging the officials with fraud and extortion, and the state’s attorney general, Martha Coakley, has assigned a team of prosecutors to the case to determine if state laws were broken.

The Ware Report

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O’Donnell says spending allegations are “thug” tactics

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The Associated Press

Failed U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell said Thursday that accusations she misspent campaign funds are politically motivated and stoked by disgruntled former campaign workers, defending herself a day after the disclosure of a criminal investigation into her spending.

The Delaware Republican appeared on several network morning shows after it was revealed that federal authorities have launched the probe to determine whether she broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses.

The GOP Senate hopeful from Delaware is under investigation for allegedly living off campaign donations from three failed Senate bids.

“There’s been no impermissible use of campaign funds whatsover,” O’Donnell told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

O’Donnell, the tea party favorite who scored a surprise primary victory before losing in the general election, suggested the accusations are driven by her political opponents on the right and left, including Vice President Joe Biden.

“You have to look at this whole thug-politic tactic for what it is,” she said Thursday.

She said that she found it suspicious that neither she, her campaign staff nor her lawyer have been informed of a federal investigation.

A person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it had been launched, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of a client who has been questioned as part of the probe. The case, which has been assigned to two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware, has not been brought before a grand jury.

O’Donnell, who set a state record by raising more than $7.3 million in a tea party-fueled campaign this year, has been dogged by questions about her personal and campaign finances.

At least two former campaign workers have alleged that O’Donnell routinely used political contributions to pay personal expenses including her rent as she ran for the Senate three consecutive times, starting in 2006. She acknowledged in a newspaper interview in March that she paid part of her rent with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters.

On Thursday, O’Donnell told NBC’s “Today Show” that she paid the campaign to use the townhouse as her legal residence because her home was vandalized.

O’Donnell said Thursday that people making the spending allegations include a fired former staff member and a former volunteer, both of whom she described as disgruntled. She says many other workers who spent longer with her campaigns have defended her.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Delaware has confirmed it is reviewing a complaint about O’Donnell’s campaign spending made this year by a nonpartisan watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. But officials in the office and the FBI declined to say whether a criminal investigation was under way.

In a statement Wednesday, O’Donnell called the allegations politically motivated and singled out Biden, who represented Delaware in the Senate for decades.

“Given that the king of the Delaware political establishment just so happens to be the vice president of the most liberal presidential administration in U.S. history, it is no surprise that misuse and abuse of the FBI would not be off the table,” she said in the statement.

CREW alleged in a complaint last September that O’Donnell improperly used more than $20,000 in campaign funds to pay her rent and other personal expenses. The group also asked Delaware’s federal prosecutor to investigate.

Federal law prohibits candidates from spending campaign money for personal benefit. FEC rules state that this prohibition applies to the use of campaign money for a candidate’s mortgage or rent “even if part of the residence is being used by the campaign,” although O’Donnell’s campaign maintained that it was told otherwise by someone at the agency.

O’Donnell drew national attention in September when she upset U.S. Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination. She was handily defeated in November by Democrat Chris Coons following a campaign that focused largely on past controversial statements, including that she’d “dabbled into witchcraft” when she was young.

One former O’Donnell staffer, Kristin Murray, recorded an automated phone call for the Delaware Republican Party just before the primary, accusing O’Donnell of “living on campaign donations — using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt.”

O’Donnell told NBC that Murray was fired from her 2008 campaign after less than two weeks because of incompetency.

Another former aide, David Keegan, said he became concerned about O’Donnell’s 2008 campaign finances as she fell behind on bills and had no apparent source of income besides political contributions. He submitted an affidavit to CREW alleging that she used campaign money to cover meals, gas, a bowling outing, and rent to a landlord, Brent Vasher.

Vasher, a nephew of Keegan’s and a one-time boyfriend of O’Donnell, declined comment when asked by The AP if he had been contacted by authorities. Vasher bought O’Donnell’s house in 2008 after she was served with a foreclosure notice, then charged her rent to stay there, according to CREW’s complaint.

In a message sent last week to The AP, Keegan said he had not been questioned as part of a criminal investigation, and that he considers himself only a “catalyst” in a case in which several people must be questioned to scrutinize O’Donnell’s accounting practices and alleged misuse of campaign funds.

After losing two treasurers in 2009, O’Donnell named herself campaign treasurer until this past summer. Another short-term treasurer took over in August and resigned less than two months later, at which point campaign manager Matt Moran added the treasurer’s role to his responsibilities.

Democrat Charles Oberly III, the U.S. attorney for Delaware, and his predecessor, David Weiss, did not immediately return messages Wednesday seeking comment. Oberly was sworn in Tuesday as Weiss’ successor.

O’Donnell, who announced just after Election Day that she had signed a book deal, hasn’t held a full-time job in years and has struggled to explain how she makes a living.

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Two Oklahoma lawmakers charged with bribery

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A state representative in Oklahoma and a former state senator there have been charged with bribery, over a scheme in which the state senator was to withdraw her candidacy in an upcoming election, so that a friend of the representative could run for her seat.

The politicians were charged under a 1974 that says offering a candidate a job, to induce them to drop out of a race, is bribery.

Prosecutors claim that Rep. Randy Terrill and Sen. Debbe Leftwich worked together to attempt to create an $80,000 position in the medical examiner’s office, specifically intended for Leftwich.  They allege Terrill used “political influence and intimidation” to try to force the appointment.

Both Terrill and Leftwich met with the chief administrator Tom Jordan, along with aide, Cherokee Ballard, about the prospective position. Both Jordan and Ballard said they were “pressured to hire Leftwich” and felt “something dirty was happening.”

The position was to be a newly-created one as a “transition” coordinator, lasting for up to three years. The job would involve helping move the medical examiner’s operations from Norman to Edmond. Gov. Brad Henry later vetoed the position saying it was highly paid and “entirely unnecessary in the operation.”

Terril’s friend, Rep. Mike Christian was interested in the seat held by Leftwich, but did not want to run against an incumbent. After Leftwich announced that she woulding be re-running for office, and while Terrill and Leftwich were attempting to secure the job in the medical examiner’s office, Christian announced that he would be running for her seat. Once the investigation was announced this summer, he ran for re-election to his House seat instead and won.

The state constitution also prevents lawmakers from working for a state agency within two years of leaving office, unless the job is privately funded or uses federal funds. Terrill attempted to work around this restriction by planning to have it underwritten using fees collected by a newly-formed narcotics bureau fund.

Prosecutors said that Terrill once told the head of the narcotics bureau hat “he could do anything he wanted with the money’ from the fund.

In convicted, the lawmakers face a fine of $1,000 and up to two tears in prison.

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House lawmaker’s son gets caught using dad’s government-paid Escalade

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Thank goodness for the break in. Otherwise, who would have known?

On Wednesday, the office of Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) said that the politician had repaid the U.S. Treasury $5,682 for his son’s use of a taxpayer-provided Cadillac Escalade.

Conyers son, John Conyers, III, was caught by accident when the government-paid vehicle he was improperly using was burglarized. At the time, he was using it as his personal vehicle, while working on a concert promotion.

The son, John Conyers III, 20, was using the SUV when it was broken into over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Thieves made off with two laptop computers and $27,500 in concert tickets. The tickets were for the concert of a local rapper Big Sean, with whom the son is associated. The computers did not contain any sensitive government information.

A prepared statement released by Conyers said the payment was calculated as “the per diem cost to taxpayers for every day my son could conceivably had access to the vehicle. It is unlikely his usage was anywhere this high, but in abundance of caution, I want to sure there is no cost to taxpayers whatsoever for any possible nonofficial use of the car.”

The statement did say whether the son owned his own car, or the Escalade was his principal vehicle.

Members of Congress are allowed to lease a vehicle for use on official business in their district. Personal use, including campaign work or use by family members is not permitted. The cost of the lease is $1,252 per month and is paid for out of the $1.5 million allowance that he receives for staff salaries and office expenses.

The Detroit News

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Detroit police monitor says no to $10 million demand

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Former police corruption monitor Sheryl Robinson Wood is asking the U.S. District Court in Detroit to dismiss a lawsuit asking for the return of $10 million in fees paid to her and her firms, while she was secretly having an affair with former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The city sued the parties claiming she breached her duties as an unbiased monitor of the Detroit police department, part of a consent-decree action following a federal probe into police department wrongdoings.

Kilpatrick and Robinson Woods had an "inappropriate" relationship while she was assigned by a federal judge to help prevent police department corruption

Her lawyer, Peter B. Kupelian, wrote in his filing with the court on Friday that the $10 million was paid to her employers, not her, and that they were unaware of her inappropriate actions involving Kilpatrick. The filing said that all the work was completed to the satisfaction of the consent decree and that as such, the payments were deemed fully earned.

Kupelian said that the lawsuit was politically motivated.  “It appears the city is seeking to gain political favor with the citizens of Detroit by seeking disgorgement of all fees paid to the monitor team for work that was fully completed.”

The filing contends that Robinson Woods had “communications” and “alleged meetings” with Kilpatrick for only a portion of the time she was a federal monitor, and that she had no communication with him whatsoever when her firms were being interviewed for the assignment.

The exact nature of the relationship between Robinson Woods and Kilpatrick has never been fully disclosed, although the parties involved admitted that it was “inappropriate.” A federal judge who examined numerous text messages between the two decided not to make the messages public.

Two weeks ago, a lawyer for the family of slain stripper Tamara “Strawberry” Greene, who claimed to have had an affair with the ex-mayor, accused Robinson Wood of also having a sexual relationship with him.
The Detroit News

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