Prosecutor caught sexting, claims immunity defense

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The former Wisconsin district attorney who resigned amid a sexting scandal says he’s immune from a lawsuit filed by a crime victim who claims she was sexually harassed by him.

Ken Kratz says he was a public official at the time of the alleged harassment and is claiming both absolute immunity and qualified immunity.

Those are legal doctrines that shield government officials in certain cases from being sued for a violation of a person’s constitutional rights.

Kratz’s argument was filed Friday in a response to a federal lawsuit filed by Stephanie Van Groll.

Kratz admitted sending suggestive text messages to Van Groll while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend. At least four other women have said Kratz made inappropriate sexual advances toward them.

The Associated Press

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Philly housing chief handed out $800 Tumi luggage to staffers at conference

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Former Philadelphia Housing Authority head Carl R. Greene was apparently very generous with taxpayer monies until he was fired last September, after its governing board learned that his agency secretly paid out $648,000 in sexual harassment claims brought on by his behavior, and at least three more were pending.

Since then, 10 lawsuits have been filed against the housing agency and Greene, ranging from sexual harassment to wrongful termination. Greene meanwhile, has fired back with his own lawsuit, claiming he was unjustly terminated.

On Wednesday, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Greene’s largess, saying that in 2009 he handed out $800 Tumi duffel bags to 20 staffers attending an annual PHA conference.

After hearing of the gifts, Interim Executive Director Michael P. Kelly sent an email to staff telling them to return the bags on Thursday, unless they wished to purchase them for a discounted price. Even though they are more than a year old, the agency said it will try to return the bags to Nordstrom, where they were purchased.

“Please understand that I am not criticizing you for accepting this item, but I do want to make a statement that the gift was not an appropriate expenditure of PHA funds,” he wrote in the email.  “Whatever money we may get for the bags will go back into the agency’s general fund.”

He also went on to tell them that it was inappropriate for employees to accept gifts of any value as part of their job.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Donald Duck sued over groping allegations

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The Associated Press

A Pennsylvania woman who claims Donald Duck groped her at Disney’s Epcot theme park can have her day in court, a federal judge has ruled. Disney must defend itself against April Magolon’s claims that the character grabbed her breast as she held her child at the Walt Disney World park and then joked about it.

Magolon, 27, of Upper Darby, claims the May 2008 encounter left her with post-traumatic stress in the form of nightmares, digestive problems and other permanent injuries. Her lawsuit also charges that Disney parks have a history of fondling complaints involving workers, and that Disney has “condoned” their actions, putting profits over public safety.

In court papers, the defense argued that Magolon sued the wrong Disney corporate entity and asked the judge to dismiss the suit or move it to Florida, where the encounter took place.

But U.S. District Judge John R. Padova refused, saying Magolon can proceed in Pennsylvania. “She, her fiancée (who was a witness to the alleged assault), and her treating doctors are all located in Pennsylvania,” Padova wrote in a Dec. 29 ruling.

Disney also has greater resources to try the case in Pennsylvania than Magolon does to try it in Florida, he said.

Magolon does not have a listed phone number, and her lawyer did not immediately return calls for comment Monday on the ruling. Disney will comment only through the court proceedings, Walt Disney World spokeswoman Andrea Finger said.

According to Magolon’s lawsuit, authorities in Florida received 24 related complaints in the week after a Walt Disney World employee dressed as “Tigger” was charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl and her mother in 2004. At least some were deemed credible and investigated by police, the suit said.

The man playing “Tigger” was later acquitted of criminal wrongdoing, after his lawyer donned the Tigger costume in court and argued that his client couldn’t see much.

On the flip side, a 60-year-old Pennsylvania man was convicted last year of groping a woman in a Minnie Mouse costume at Walt Disney World.John William Moyer, of Cressona, insisted he was innocent. But a Florida judge sentenced him to probation, community service and $1,000 court costs for misdemeanor battery.

The victim said she had to do everything possible to keep Moyer’s hands off her breasts.

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Philadelphia Housing Authority snags another lawsuit, thanks to former head Carl R. Greene

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Getting rid of executive director Carl R. Greene in September apparently hasn’t relieved the embattled PHA of continuing fallout from his time there. Now it’s been learned that one of the woman who settled a sexual harassment claim for $350,000 with the agency in 2008 over Greene’s unwanted advances, has filed a lawsuit in Common Pleas Court charging PHA employees with intimidation and harassment after she left the agency.

The lawsuit asks for damages of $600,000 for PHA’s failure to adequately discipline Greene.

Greene can't be happy about all the harassment lawsuits that he and PHA have attracted.

Moneke Thomas, 38, claims that current and former PHA employees inflicted emotional distress to keep her silent and to frighten other women in the organization so they wouldn’t speak out about the goings on inside. Thomas said that she was followed while driving in her car, had her mail tampered with and flowerpots were turned over in front of her home.

While the lawsuit does not specifically name Greene, in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Thomas said that she believe Greene was behind the activities. “He will do everything in his power to keep me from speaking,” she said.

Thomas’ earlier sexual harassment settlement specifically includes a non-disclosure provision, preventing her from discussing the alleged sexual harassment, and the current lawsuit sidesteps that matter.

Greene was fired in September when the PHA board learned the agency had secretly paid $648,000 to three female employees to settle sexual harassment complaints, and that a fourth woman was pursuing the same claim against the agency. Since Greene was fired, three more women have filed lawsuits in state and federal courts against Greene and the agency for sexual harassment.

Greene has denied wrongdoing in all the previous sexual harassment complaints.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Army funnels over $250 million to bogus Alaska native firm with no experience

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Is the U.S. Army getting its money's worth when using unqualified and inexperienced contractors?

A tiny and inexperienced Delaware company has been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars of lucrative contracts by the U.S. Army without any competitive bidding, and for which it has no experience.

A Washington Post investigation found that the small firm, United Solutions and Services, known as US2, has expertly exploited federal laws designed to help impoverished native Alaskans, although nearly all of its revenues, profits and employee compensation has gone directly to non-native Alaskans. In fact, the firm is not located in Alaska, and employs not a single native Alaskan.

The company benefited from a loose association an Alaska Native Corporation (ANC), a special type of entity created by act of Congress in 1971 to help improve the lives of impoverished native Alaskans. Over $29 billion in work has been awarded over the last ten years to companies that have ANC status, many of which through a legal association with an Alaska shell company. A key and extremely valuable feature of ANC status is that companies can receive federal contracts of any size, without any competitive bidding.

In the three-year period between 2005 and 2008, US2 had a total of $33,000 in revenues- largely from janitorial and other work. It had only three employees, and its president, Stephen Hadley, worked from his living room in his Delaware home. Despite its lack of revenues, assets, employees, experience or anything else of apparent value, US2 had one asset of monumental value: its 51% ownership by an ANC called Cape Fox, allowing it to become a major defense contractor overnight.

Before founding US2, Hadley was a lineman and supervisor at Delmarva Power and Light. He told the Post, “When I got into the ‘federal world’ and realized that I had a chance to be entrepreneurial, do public service and help out the Alaskan natives, I fell immediately for the challenge. I am very proud of what we have accomplished. All it took was a good plan, lots of luck, perseverance, people willing to take a chance and God’s will to make it happen.”

Due to its part-ownership by Cape Fox, in 2008, without any competitive bidding, the Army discovered US2 and awarded three lucrative contracts in rapid succession. First was a $7 million contract in April 2008 for “professional, scientific and technical services.” Then in July, it received a $22 million contract to build a 15,000 square-foot high-tech recruiting center in Philadelphia.

Shortly thereafter, the Army awarded a five-year contract to US2 worth as much as $250 million to create a program to handle sexual assault and harassment training, another area in which it had no experience. With full knowledge of the Army, US2 simply subcontracted the work out to other firms to meet the requirements of the contract, as it done on the previous contracts

In 2009, the Army paid US2 a total of $61.7 million under the contract. Of that, nearly all the monies went Hadley and a handful of subcontractors, including Summit Marketing Group, General Dynamics Information Technology, nonprofit government contractor LMI and public relations outfit O’Keefe and Co.  The amount earned by and paid to native Alaskan company Cape Fox amounted to $641,000- about 1% of the total revenues.

Besides the apparent abuse of the ANC laws to funnel lucrative government contracts to firms that provide little or no benefit to impoverished Alaskans, the lack of competitive bidding almost guarantees that taxpayers are also being overcharged on billions of dollars of such contracts. The competitive bidding process affords protection that goods or services are being secured at a reasonable price and help avoid rampant fraud that is so prevalent in government contracting.

The Army claims that it followed proper procedures in its dealings with US2, but said that it would refer the matter to its inspector general for further review.

The Washington Post

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Police officers disciplined for sex parties at union hall

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The city of Rialto, near San Bernardino in Southern California, has been hit with a $500,000 harassment lawsuit by a worker from a nearby strip club, after an officer got her pregnant and then began abusing her. Nancy Holtgreve, a cocktail waitress at the Spearmint Rhino, claims that officers began frequenting the club in 2008, and taking back some of the girls to the police union headquarters and the agency’s narcotics office for sex parties.

Holtgreve alleges that after she became pregnant by officer James Dobbs, he began threatening her because he felt she was jeopardizing a child custody battle with his ex-wife, and his relationship with a girlfriend. Holtgreve reported his threats to the Rialto police department, but she says that they took no action, a violation of her civil rights.

Besides Dobbs, who resigned while under investigation by the police department, five other officers were named for using the union hall and narcotics office for sex parties, and for having sex while on-duty. One of the five officers has resigned, and the other four have been severely disciplined, according to Police Chief Mark Kling.

Los Angeles Times

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Jail Guard Misconduct Cost Taxpayers $55 Million

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Center Of Abuse Charges- Cook County Jails

Illinois taxpayers will bear the brunt of a settlement approved by Cook County Board Commissioners resulting from a lawsuit over the rough treatment of incoming male inmates by jail guards. The lawsuit targeted the regular procedure by guards of subjecting inmates to strip searches while demeaning and verbally abusing them.

The lawsuit covered the period from Jan. 30, 2004 through March 19, 2009. Plaintiffs’ lawyers said that incoming inmates were regularly lined up, shoulder to shoulder, in groups as large as 100 and forced to strip while guards bombarded them with “sexually derogative epithets.” Even those detained for minor traffic violations were subject to the abuse.

During the period, as many as 250,000 men were put through the procedure, which the lawyers compared to brutal form of hazing. Besides attempting to locate contraband, the practice was intended to “put the inmates in their place”, according to Mike Kanovitz, the lead attorney on the case.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart defended the strip searches as necessary for security purposes and said that the department was working on ways to improve jail procedures. Incoming inmates are now searched using electronic scanners like those that have been used for years at airport security checkpoints.

The Cook County Board of Commissions decided to settle the case after the county lost a series of ruling in a federal court case that was filed in 2006. The commissioners were worried about an even higher judgment if the case went to trial.  A similar case involving incoming female inmates cost the county $6.8 million several years ago, but the Sheriff’s department failed to change its procedures regarding male inmates.

Of the $55.3 million settlement, about $10 million will be covered by insurance, while the other $45 million will paid by taxpayers, and added the county’s already massive $285 million budget deficit estimated for next year.

Under the settlement, detainees can file for awards ranging from $500 to $1,000. The lawyers in the case will collect $15 million of the settlement proceeds.

Chicago Tribune

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