Louisville councilwoman establishes summer grant program, hires 12 relatives

Councilwoman Judy Green is set to appear in front of the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission on charges she used her government position to enrich her family through a youth summer jobs program.

Green secured $35,000 for the “Green Clean Team” summer jobs program, intended to hire underprivileged youth to clean up alleys, lots and parks. Green ran the program, including making decisions on whom to hire.

Of the total monies, Green used $3,850 to hire 12 of her relatives, and another $28,270 of the funds are unaccounted for.

A police investigation said “the process by which this grant was established, completed and documented lacks professionalism, appears very unethical, and raises questions to the criminal allegations but there is not enough to support any further criminal investigation or prosecution.”

The ethics complaint was filed against Green, a dentist, by former police officer Ray Barker Jr., who ran against her in last May’s Democratic primary election.

Green’s lawyer, Kent Wicker said in a prepared statement “the ethics ordinance requires the process to be confidential. Unfortunately the complainant, who lost the last two elections to Dr. Green, wants to continue that political fight in the media and in this forum. But Dr. Green will follow the law and have no comment on the ethics complaint until the process is over.”

Critics disagree the matter is a private one.

Although the chairman of the ethics committee, Jonathan Ricketts, confirmed the meetings would be held confidentially in executive session, a lawyer representing the Courier-Journal said the city’s ordinance is in violation of state law.

“The open meetings law exempts deliberations … not the hearing of evidence,” Fleischaker said. “So I do not think they are entitled to take evidence at a quasi-judicial proceeding in closed session. They are entitled to deliberate privately, but the hearing itself should be open to the public.”

Information from: Courier-Journal

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Sacramento high school offers advanced classes with no teachers

Rosemont High School in Sacramento, California offers advanced Japanese classes as part of its curriculum – the only problem is that they don’t have any instructors qualified to teach the class. Students are left to study on their own, watch movies in Japanese and take notes.

The school’s Japanese teacher left for maternity leave in August last year, and the substitute hired to replace her quit in November. A substitute assigned to the classes in December does not speak any Japanese, so instead is focusing on culture and history of the country.

For now, the district has hired an outside firm to take over the level 1 and 2 classes.

Even though it did not have anyone lined up to teach the advanced level 3 and 4 classes, it offered them anyways. So until April when the regular teacher returns, students will have to sit around, watching films and wondering why they are even in the class.

The Sacramento Bee

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Illinois lawmaker wants to offer advertising on license plates

A Chicago-area politician thinks that offering private companies an opportunity to advertise on Illinois license plates is a good way to raise money for the cash-strapped state.

The plan would allow companies to put their advertising message on the plates, if they subsidize the cost to consumers. The state would also get a cut of the action.

“This gives us a chance to raise revenue without raising taxes,” said state Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago. “We’ve got to think outside the box these days.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, instead of the $99 annual fee, a driver might only pay $84, with the balance being paid by the advertiser. On top of that payment, an additional amount would be paid to the state.

Mulroe said his proposal is a win-win situation.

No word yet on whether bail-bond, liquor or cigarette companies would be able to participate in the program.

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1st Grade teacher arrested, charged with assaulting nine students

A first-grade school teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland was arrested Tuesday and charged with nine counts of second-degree assault.

Nine of her sixteen students, ages 6- and 7, said teacher Susan Burke choked them, and in some instances, punched them.

All of the assaults occurred during the month of December. On Jan. 7, one of the boys and his parent filed a police report at the Briggs Chaney police substation alleging that he was beaten several times.

“All of the victims described being choked by the suspect,” detectives wrote in the arrest records. “Some of the students, in addition to being choked, stated they were kicked, punched, scratched or had their arms squeezed tightly by Susan Burke.”

Sharon Durham says her 7-year-old son told her Burke had choked him while he was standing in line. She says she asked Burke about the incident, but the teacher didn’t seem to know what she was talking about.

Burke was released on bail Wednesday, but no one answered at a phone listing for her.

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California court administrative agency charged with wasteful spending

A joint investigative effort by San Diego Union-Tribune and 10News to document wasteful spending at county courthouses in 2010 has turned up some telling items. The charges were detailed in a maintenance log obtained by the news outlets under the California Public Records Act.

What normally be considered minor items by most people routinely ran into the hundreds of dollars.

For example, just adjusting a thermostat in an office or courtroom can cost between $120 and $460, according to records.

The Union-Tribune reported a few more examples:

Two handles on glass entrance doors to the South County courthouse in Chula Vista were tightened after a report that they were loose. Cost: $496.

Squeaky doors into Department 66 at the downtown Hall of Justice were disrupting court proceedings. Cost to fix: $460.35.

A toilet paper holder in a restroom used by sheriff’s deputies at the East County courthouse in El Cajon fell off and was repaired. Cost: $380.70.

A flickering light in a hallway between two courtrooms in the downtown criminal courts building was repaired in August. Cost: $599.31.

The repair costs were listed on records obtained from the Administrative Office of the Courts, which supervises the court system throughout the state. Critics say the agency is inefficient, bloated and does a poor job of managing the facilities.

The agency is responsible for maintaining 350 court facilities around the state, including more than 10 million feet of space. It contracts with private companies around the state to handle routine repairs and maintenance items.

If a work item is estimated to cost less than $500, it is sent by a computerized system to the vendor to handle the work. The agency does not review the requests beforehand, but says that it reviews some of the bills after the work is completed.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Dan Goldstein, head of a 400-member group of state judges is highly critical of the AOC. “While the courts have been asked to endure a $360 million baseline budget cut, the AOC has continued to act with recklessness with the court’s scarce resources,” he said. “Because of a lack of oversight, transparency and the lack of controls on courthouse maintenance costs have become intolerable.”

If picking up two dead rats in a parking lot costs $43.20, perhaps someone can suggest a better way to manage the system.

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Maryland judge must take twice-daily breathalyzer tests while hearing cases

Washington County Circuit Court Judge W. Kennedy Boone lll has been ordered by the Maryland Judicial Commission on Disabilities to take blood-alcohol tests twice daily to insure that he’s not intoxicated while presiding over court cases.

The commission’s job is to investigate complaints about the behavior of judges, and looks into matters of mental or physical illness, senility, and alcohol or drug abuse.

In Judge Boone’s case, he was involved in a car accident in which he hit a young woman who had a baby in the car. Although the baby was not injured, the woman received minor neck and back injuries. Boone’s blood-alcohol level was .18 at the time, more than twice the legal limit.

Owing in part to some previous questionable behavior on the bench, including calling three black female public defenders “The Supremes,” and telling their client to get “an experienced male attorney,” it appears that the commission had more than casual reason to believe that the drinking incident was not isolated.

Now, each morning before beginning work, and after he returns from lunch, the judge is required to take the blood-alcohol tests.

Critics are wondering just how difficult it is to find prospective judges in Maryland that don’t have to be tested twice per day to make sure that they are sober while hearing cases.

The Baltimore Sun

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Top cops in S.F. cash out with big retirement paydays

On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle published some eye-opening salaries paid to law enforcement chiefs on their way to retirement.

In 2009, retiring S.F. Police Chief Heather Fong, age 52 at the time, collected $528,595 in her final year, which included $303,653 for unused vacation, sick and comp time. She will receive an annual pension of $229,500 for the rest of her life.

Former Deputy Chief Charles Keohane, who also retired in 2009, collected $516, 118 in his final year, which included $325,503 for unused vacation, sick and comp time.

Retiring Commander and S.F Assistant Police Chief Morris Tabak took home $425,558 in his final year, which included $173,703 in unused vacation, sick and comp time.

Three Bay Area Rapid Transit senior officers also did well by retiring in 2009 and 2010. Commander Travis Gibson earned a total of $355,000, Commander Maria White earned a total of $282,453 and Sgt. Mark Macaulay took home $286,152, including $140,908 in overtime. Macaulay is still employed on the force, and may pop up next year again as a highly-paid member of the BART police department.

All the retiring police officers also will receive six-figure pensions.

The San Francisco Chronicle

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