Eileen M. Decker, US Attorney for the Central District of California, announced that retired Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty today in federal court to two counts of lying to federal agents investigating allegations of abusive treatment and corruption by deputy sheriffs in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
Baca acknowledged lying about his office’s efforts to hide an LA County jail inmate from the FBI. The plan to hide the inmate, an FBI confidential source, was named Operation Pandora’s Box.
Several of Baca’s former command staff are scheduled to be tried in federal court on related charges.
What would happen if the FBI swooped into a town and arrested the mayor, the city attorney, and all but one member of the city council?
That’s the question Crystal City, Texas, city councilman Joel Barajas is going to have to answer. He’s the one man left on the city council after the FBI arrested the city’s mayor, mayor pro tem, the city attorney, and the rest of the council on corruption or human smuggling charges.
Here’s a link to the Washington Post article headlined FBI arrests nearly all of the top officials of Crystal City, Tex. The information about the city attorney has a Bell-like ring to it.
However, the federal indictment does have some useful information for other cities whose officials may be corruptly inclined. This is a very plain-language indictment. One need not be an attorney to understand the federal jurisdiction, the object of the conspiracy, or the crimes alleged.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Back in January 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded a lengthy public corruption investigation with the arrest of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
Information about his corruption and his betrayal of those who elected him were in this press release issued on January 22, 2015, by Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The slimy, grimy details of how Sheldon Silver, this purportedly highly respected pillar of the community, abused his elected position and profited by exploiting it are in the 35-page complaint on January 21, 2015, seeking a warrant for his arrest.
Yesterday, US Attorney Preet Bharara issued another statement, this one announcing the conviction of the aforementioned slimeball on all corruption charges. Bharara’s press release was elegant in its one-sentence simplicity.
The New York Times article about Silver’s conviction had more information, but it added little to Bharara’s comment.
It seems to us that Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara gets New York’s corrupt public officials convicted because he and the FBI’s investigators look for it, and Bharara doesn’t dismiss evidence of it as “miscommunications“. Thanks to their dedication and professional persistence, “Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York.” (more…)
“Fraudulent steering” has nothing to do with automobile recalls.
It has everything to do with a dishonest Chicago Public Schools (CPS) official, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who was the putative decision-maker in deciding which two education consulting companies would get a $23 million no-bid contract to provide consulting services to CPS.
One of Babs’ criteria for fraudulently steering the contract to the companies was evidently how much they would be willing to kick back to her in return. The kickback netted her a cool $2.3 million.
And now the FBI is looking closely at what Babs did as the Chief Accountability Officer in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) before she went CPS. The allegation filed in federal court is that she fraudulently steered a DPS textbook contract worth $40 million to a publishing house, Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, where she had formerly worked.
For an interesting take on Babs’ bribery, see the article headlined Blaming Byrd-Bennett won’t end CPS corruption in The Depaulia, the student newspaper of DePaul University.
Contracts do get steered to preferred vendors and suppliers. A red flag the size of a large empty hole in the ground should start waving when a contract is worth a lot of money and is awarded to a sole-source without honest competitive bidding. It’s a form of bid-rigging.
Fortunately, it only happens in Chicago or Detroit or Atlanta or … But it could never happen in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
OpenCdA has received word that northern Idaho’s Port of Hope, Inc., currently in Coeur d’Alene, has applied for a special use permit to establish a federal residential re-entry center in Post Falls. We believe this will result in the closure of the Coeur d’Alene facility which has been in operation since 1998.
OpenCdA fully understands the Port of Hope’s apparent desire to leave Coeur d’Alene. The shameful efforts by members of the City of Coeur d’Alene Planning Commission with help from employees of School District 271 to run Port of Hope out of town in 2013 were documented in this series of OpenCdA posts. Thankfully, the Coeur d’Alene City Council resoundingly rejected those efforts in its meeting on October 1, 2013.
We hope that the members of the Post Falls Planning & Zoning Commission will look at our posts linked above. These posts revealed how hysteria and deception can drive a completely unsupported decision in a planning commission hearing. Our hope is that however the Post Falls Planning & Zoning Commission rules on Port of Hope’s application, the Commissioners’ votes will be based entirely on their objective evaluation of the relevant evidence presented during the hearing.
For the reasons we’ve beaten to death in our earlier posts concerning historic horse racing machines in Idaho, OpenCdA agreed with Governor Otter’s decision to veto S 1011 passed during the 2015 legislative session. That bill repealed Idaho Code § 54-2512A. His decision to veto the repeal effort was the right one.
However, we also agree with the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision released September 10, 2015, to overturn Otter’s veto. Otter bungled the veto. It is impossible for us to believe that an honest, competent, and experienced governor could accidentally or even carelessly mess up the state’s clearly defined veto process.
To OpenCdA it looks as if Governor Clement L. Otter intended for his veto to be unable to withstand the inevitable and ultimately successful legal challenge that was mounted against it. (more…)
In her online newsletter dated September 3, 2015, State Senator Mary Souza offered some advice to the Coeur d’Alene Urban Renewal Agency.
Sen. Souza advised, “Ditch the new name and logo, cancel the PR contract, return to the original name of Coeur d’Alene Urban Renewal Agency. Get rid of the paid consultants, lobbyists and the overpaid executive director position. Hire a manager and a clerical assistant and let’s have the board members stand for public election. We can even pay them a small fee for their time, which would place them under a higher level of the Idaho Ethics law.”
OpenCdA agrees with Senator Souza. (more…)
Imagine that! In southern California the Inland Empire Public Corruption Task Force that includes the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, and the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office has served a search warrant at the Palm Springs, CA, city hall.
It has been alleged that Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet may have taken a walk on the shady side when he received about $200,000 from a local developer, Richard Meany. Seems Meany was going to need to purchase some Palm Springs city property for the project, so he hired the Palm Springs mayor to consult with him on the project. The mayor and council subsequently voted to approve the sale of the property to the developer at a questionable price .
Palm Springs is a resort city with a population of about 46,300 residents in the Coachella Valley.
Fortunately for us in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, nothing like that could ever happen here. Mayor Steve Widmyer would never have any close ties with any local developer and then be involved in a deal for city land with that developer’s company, right?
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OpenCdA’s post on February 20, 2015, entitled Now Just a Minute was based on the proposal attributed to Kootenai County Clerk Jim Brannon but considered by other county elected officials including Commissioners, the Prosecutor, and the Sheriff. As reported in Friday’s Coeur d’Alene Press, Brannon suggested hiring a county public information officer to handle both public records requests and the dissemination of public information.
OpenCdA thinks this is a bad idea. The suggestion is a convenient way to add another filter, a gatekeeper, between public records and citizens’ access to them. It is appalling that our elected public officials do not distinguish between public records which speak for themselves and public information which uses a spokesflack to select and deliver the County’s fluff du jour in its most favorable light.
We find this suggestion particularly galling because it is appears to be directed at shutting down legitimate inquiries primarily from one person: Kootenai County government watchdog Frank Davis.
That elected officials in Kootenai County believe a new position for one of their hand-picked cronies needs to be created just to field legitimate inquiries from one or even a few people suggests something else to us: The community watchdogs like Frank Davis are on the right track, and they are making some past and present elected officials (and those locally who control them) very nervous about what the Idaho Attorney General may uncover. (more…)
Occasionally a television news story provides the station’s watchers, listeners, and online readers with a concise but fairly complete picture of how a city councilman’s official actions can prompt a federal criminal investigation. That was the case when Hampton Roads, Virginia, television station WVEC ran its February 2, 2015, news story entitled FBI investigating Beach councilman’s vote on Cavalier project.
Not counting the attachment to the federal grand jury subpoena detailing the records which the city of Virginia Beach, Virgina, Custodian of Records is required to bring before the grand jury, the news story is only about 575 words.
WVEC’s news story suggests someone credibly alleged that Virginia Beach Councilman John Uhrin may have accepted a bribe or gratuity in return for his favorable vote on a project providing a developer millions of dollars in taxpayer incentives to renovate a hotel and allow a permit for a luxury housing community. It appears that the bribe or gratuity alleged took the form of Uhrin’s wife being hired to market the homes in the project in return for Councilman Uhrin’s favorable vote. (Generally, a bribe is a payoff for future official action, whereas a gratuity is a payoff for a prior official action.)
Note that at this point, the FBI is only conducting an investigation. The function of the investigation is to gather verifiable, relevant facts which would allow the federal grand jury to decide if there is sufficient admissible evidence to warrant indicting anyone with a crime.