Category Archives: Horror.Stories

Iowa auditor agrees to examine privatized Medicaid savings to see why estimates abruptly tripled

Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, June 8, 2018 
Iowa’s state auditor has agreed to look into the see-sawing estimates of how much Iowa taxpayers are saving by having private companies run the state’s $5 billion Medicaid program.  Department of Human Services leaders last month abruptly tripled their estimate of those annual savings, from $47 million to $140.9 million, without explanation.  The new estimate was still 39 percent less than the $232 million that former Gov. Terry Branstad predicted state taxpayers would be saving by now under his controversial decision to privatize the health care program for 600,000 poor or disabled Iowans.  State Sen. Pam Jochum, an outspoken critic of Medicaid privatization, asked State Auditor Mary Mosiman last month to look into what was going on with the estimates. …

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Iowa’s estimated savings from Medicaid privatization triples to $141 million, after plummeting 80 percent
Source: Tony Leys, Des Moines Register, May 18, 2018
 
The state’s official estimate of how much Medicaid privatization is saving Iowa taxpayers has suddenly tripled, a few months after it had plummeted 80 percent.   The Iowa Department of Human Services provided no explanation of how it came up with the new number.  State administrators now estimate the annual savings at $140.9 million, according to a letter they sent this week to a legislator. In December, their savings estimate was $47 million for the current budget year, which runs through June.  Former Gov. Terry Branstad predicted in 2017 that the savings for this budget year would be $232 million.  David Hudson of Windsor Heights, who leads an official advisory committee on Iowa’s Medicaid program, expressed frustration after reading a letter from the department to a legislator who asked for the savings estimate. …

Iowa House again passes Medicaid oversight legislation
Source: James Q. Lynch, The Gazette, April 23, 2018
 
The Iowa House once again has unanimously approved legislation providing oversight of Medicaid managed care to deal with what the bill’s manger called “bumps in the road.”  The House earlier passed similar legislation, but it failed to meet a deadline in the Senate. So the House passed House File 2483 on a 95-0 vote. The earlier version was approved 97-0. … The bill makes a statement “to the Department of Human Services, to the citizens out there who are being served by these managed care organizations, to the providers, that we feel very strongly in doing what we can to provide oversight over the process of this privatized Medicaid approach that has created so many bumps in the process and taken up so much of our time,” Heaton said. …

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Hell on Wheels

Source: Kiera Feldman, ProPublica, June 4, 2018
 
Even in the bruising, often chaotic world of New York’s nighttime trash collection, Sanitation Salvage cuts a distinctively brutish profile. Its role in Diallo’s death — and, in April, the death of an elderly Bronx man run down while crossing the street with a cane — has set off a firestorm for the company as well as the city agency that oversees the commercial trash industry.  An investigation by Voice of America and ProPublica, drawing on thousands of pages of public documents and interviews with more than a dozen current and former workers, depicts a workplace environment in which concerns about safety, as well as workers’ rights and compensation, are flouted despite years of complaints from workers to regulators.  Records show that more than three-quarters of Sanitation Salvage trucks have been ordered off the road after federal safety checks. Yet the company has paid lobbyists to fight local legislation that backers say would compel haulers to improve on working conditions and safety. …

Prison guards: Michigan is deliberately hiding extent of prison kitchen horror show

Source: Tom Perkins, Detroit Metro Times, May 23, 2018
 
Since Michigan privatized its prison kitchens in 2014, problems with Trinity and Aramark’s employees have been well documented. But of all the issues, one that corrections officers say hasn’t received much attention is also perhaps the most dangerous — gangs are trying to exploit Trinity’s weaknesses to exert control over the food supply. … Officers say the kitchens are vulnerable because Trinity is understaffing them, undertraining employees, and underpaying employees. They allege that the Tampa-based company has unwittingly hired gang members along with inmates’ family members and ex inmates. But Trinity’s problems extend well beyond gangs. Documents show some Trinity employees have supplied drugs to inmates, or taken drugs or drank on the job. Trinity employees have had sexual contact with inmates so many times that one officer tells us, “We can tell which new [Trinity] employees will walk out of the prison with a boyfriend.” …

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Problem-plagued prison food contractor gets extra $35M from Michigan 
Source: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press, May 15, 2018

Michigan’s problem-plagued prison food contractor will receive a check for $35 million as its workers leave the chow halls to make way for the return of state employees, records show. The state and Trinity Services Group are parting ways on July 31 as the state ends a nearly five-year privatization experiment with Trinity and its predecessor, Aramark Correctional Services. Both contracts were marked by problems with inadequate staffing, maggots and other sanitation issues, smuggling of drugs and other contraband, and sex acts between food workers and prisoners. Under a new contract proposed for 2019, Trinity will be paid $35 million — or nearly two thirds of an annual payment — to cover food for the next year and use of the company’s software system for forecasting, tracking and purchasing food and supplies, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz told the Free Press on Tuesday. …

Push to end privatized prison food clears first hurdle
Source: Jonathan Oosting, Detroit News, April 10, 2018
 
A state House budget panel Tuesday unanimously approved Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to end controversial privatized food service in Michigan prisons, meaning the proposal to rehire state workers for kitchen jobs cleared an early hurdle. But legislators and the Michigan Department of Corrections are at odds over a separate budget provision that would require the state to close its third prison since 2016 due to a steadily declining population. Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature voted to privatize prison food service in 2012, a move that was projected to save the state $16 million a year as contract workers replaced more than 370 state employees. …

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From Pittsburgh to Flint, the Dire Consequences of Giving Private Companies Responsibility for Ailing Public Water Systems

Source: Sharon Lerner and Leana Hosea, The Intercept, May 20, 2018
 
The lead crises in Flint and Pittsburgh have many unfortunate parallels. Residents of both cities unknowingly drank water with high levels of the potent neurotoxin, which has long-term health consequences. The rise in lead levels was preceded in both cases by a miscalculation related to chemicals used to control corrosion in water pipes. And in both places, officials have faced criticism for their inaction and failure to alert the public. The two lead crises have another important thing in common: a private water company named Veolia. The world’s largest supplier of water services, Veolia had contracts with both Flint and Pittsburgh around the time that lead levels rose in their drinking water. And in both places, Veolia wound up in legal disputes over its role in the crises. …

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Pittsburgh’s Water System Is Why We Shouldn’t Run America Like a Business
Source: Jordana Rosenfeld, The Nation, November 30, 2017

Pittsburgh, in an attempt to deal with entrenched infrastructure problems, turned to the private sector in 2012 when it partnered with the French management firm Veolia North America, the same water-management company that would fail to disclose Flint’s lead-contamination problem in 2015. … The organization lauded Veolia for identifying $2.3 million in new PWSA revenue and $3 million more in operating savings, a move incentivized by their contract that stipulated the company could keep 40 percent of every dollar it saved the city. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a glowing account of PWSA’s partnership with Veolia, despite reports that it laid off 23 employees, many of whom were longtime employees with critical institutional knowledge. … But this August, a consulting group hired to assess the organization’s current state announced in a public meeting that PWSA was “a failed organization atop a dangerous and crumbling structure” with “an aging system in demonstrably worse condition than any water utility of its size in the country.” Not only that, water tests showed that since the partnership began, Pittsburgh’s water had been tainted with dangerously high levels of lead. …

Veolia’s US growth hopes run into trouble
Source: Luc Olinga, AFP, September 23, 2017

Veolia’s hopes of taking advantage of municipal privatizations and promised Trump administration public works projects to expand its US presence, are being strained by its role in water crises in Flint, Michigan and other cities. … A push by more US local governments to privatize water systems and promises by President Donald Trump of a $1 trillion public infrastructure investment are seen as opportunities to Veolia to expand. … But Veolia’s operations have not been without controversy, especially in Flint, where a lead contaminated water system became a notorious symbol of American social injustice. Veolia issued a study of the city’s water quality before the scandal erupted but did not flag any issues with lead, an issue it says it was told to exclude from the report since city and federal authorities already were looking into it. … Veolia continues to face numerous investigations and class-action lawsuits connected to the crisis. … Veolia also has run into controversy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which also suffered from elevated levels of lead in its water system. The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority has accused the French company of mismanaging the infrastructure system, including botching a shift in chemicals used in corrosion control. The Pittsburgh authority is in mediation with Veolia, according to two people familiar with the matter, but if that process fails it could result in another protracted court battle. …

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Young Boy With Autism Abused By His School Bus Aide And Driver

Source: Dave Savini, CBS Chicago, May 11, 2018

Nicky O’Toole has autism and struggles to communicate. For months, when he was just nine years old, he was hit and threatened by his school bus aide and driver. … O’Toole said as she struggled to figure out why her son’s behavior was changing, she initially did not suspect the First Student bus employees. … She says months of disturbing videos are in First Student’s possession. … There are training questions too. First Student’s contract with the District says they provide, “..a well-developed special-needs training program.” The bus aide says otherwise, according to O’Toole’s team of attorneys, Michael Krzak of Krzak and Rundio Law and Robert Clifford from Clifford Law Offices.

Parking meter deal keeps getting worse for city as meter revenues rise

Source: Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun Times, May 14, 2018

Chicago’s parking meter system raked in $134.2 million last year, putting private investors on pace to recoup their entire $1.16 billion investment by 2021 with 62 years to go in the lease, the latest annual audit shows. Four underground, city-owned parking garages took in $34 million in 2017, while the privatized Chicago Skyway generated $99.9 million in cash, separate audits of those assets show. Not a penny of those revenues, once a mainstay for city government, went to ease the avalanche of tax increases imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to solve the city’s $36 billion pension crisis. That’s because all three of those assets were unloaded by former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who used the money to avoid raising property taxes while city employee pension funds sunk deeper in the hole. …

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Parking meters, garages took in $156M — but city won’t see a cent
Source: Mick Dumke and Chris Fusco, Chicago Sun-Times, February 13, 2017

Chicago’s parking-meter system took in $121.7 million last year, while four underground city-owned garages reaped another $34.7 million — with not a penny of that money going to the cash-strapped city government. Instead, the $156.3 million pot of parking cash went to private investors who control the meters and garages under deals cut by former Mayor Richard M. Daley and rubber-stamped by the City Council. … Chicago Parking Meters — formed by banking giant Morgan Stanley and other financial partners — paid the city $1.15 billion to manage the meter system and pocket the money fed into it for the next 75 years. The city took in $23.8 million from the meters in 2008, the last year before CPM took over the system. In the seven years since, the meter company has reported a total of $778.6 million in revenues. It’s on pace to make back what it paid the city by 2020, with more than 60 years of meter money still to come. … The garage agreement has also sent a stream of money into the coffers of private investors. … Over the nine years of the deal, the facilities have generated $292.6 million in revenue for their private operators. … Last week, the rights to the garages were sold to a group of foreign investors.

A Tale of Two P3s
Source: Yvette Shields, Bond Buyer, July 7, 2016

Chicago’s first mistake in its much-maligned parking meter lease was its choice of asset. That’s one conclusion of a report released Thursday by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research that looks at public-private partnerships and compares the details of two deals – Chicago’s nearly $1.2 billion 75-year meter system lease and Indiana’s $3.9 billion 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road. The Indiana deal is held up as a model while the Chicago parking lease offers a roadmap of pitfalls to avoid. …

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Putting the Public First in Public-Private Partnerships

Source: Gabrielle Gurley, The American Prospect, April 26, 2018
 
… More than a decade later, the Port of Miami Tunnel is the marquee example of a public-private transportation infrastructure partnership. … But the tunnel’s success is deceptive, since the unique factors that converged in South Florida cannot be replicated everywhere. For every Port of Miami Tunnel, scores of ill-conceived projects dot the American landscape. The United States lags behind not only in basic maintenance of existing assets at the end of their life cycles but in building the next generation of roads, bridges, rail, tunnels, and aviation projects. With public funds scarce in a climate of tax-cutting and budgetary austerity, the risk is that the contactor/partner pays the up-front costs but sticks future generations of taxpayers and rate-payers with exorbitant charges. … But states and municipalities can learn to appreciate the differences between partnerships that put the public first and the rip-offs that erode public confidence in government and drain public coffers.

… The Trump administration’s version of an infrastructure initiative relies heavily on private financing, which may or may not materialize. … But the Trump framework is only an exaggeration of recent trends. At best, new fiscal pressures can lead public officials to get creative, seeking private partners who may bring superior engineering, financing, and legal expertise, and better attention to maintenance and operations. But private-sector involvement does not automatically mean a better outcome. Citizens and public officials often forget that the private sector’s prime motive is profit, not philanthropy. If a firm cannot clear a good return on an investment, either the deal will not materialize or the terms will be onerous to the public. Public debates can be marred by false expectations, and confusion or obfuscation of what distinguishes a good partnership from a rip-off. …

Day-care worker charged with sexually assaulting children

Source: Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, April 23, 2018

An assistant teacher with a popular day-care chain in Northern Virginia has been charged with sexually assaulting children at a Bristow location, Prince William County police said. Taylor Keith Boykin, 27, of Nokesville, Va., is facing eight counts of aggravated sexual battery and indecent liberties by a custodian in connection with alleged touching of four children over the course of a year at Minnieland Academy, police said. … The case follows other trouble for the chain, which has been operating since the 1970s and has more than 30 locations across the outer Virginia suburbs of the District. Two other Minnieland workers at the Woodbridge facility were convicted in 2016 of running what prosecutors called a “baby fight club.” …

Private Prison Company Made Detainees Work For Toilet Paper, Lawsuit Alleges

Source: Betsy Woodruff, Daily Beast, April 18, 2018

A private prison company forced immigrant detainees to work for as little as $1 per day if they wanted toilet paper, toothpaste, and safe lodging, according to a new lawsuit filed on Tuesday. The class action suit, filed in federal court for the Middle District of Georgia, pits three plaintiffs––Wilhen Hill Barrientos, Margarito Velazquez Galicia, and Shoahib Ahmed––against CoreCivic, the nation’s largest private prison company. Barrientos and Velazquez Galicia are both currently detained in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. Ahmed was previously detained there before giving up his asylum claim. The three allege that CoreCivic is violating a federal anti-human trafficking law with the work program that it oversees. …

… This isn’t the only suit targeting private prison companies over work programs, and CoreCivic isn’t the only company facing this kind of litigation. Last year, a federal judge in Colorado granted class certification to a similar lawsuit, letting thousands of current and former detainees join on to a lawsuit against GEO Group, the country’s second biggest private prison company. These lawsuits have drawn the attention of lawmakers. Earlier this year, 18 Republican members of Congress wrote a letter defending forced labor practices under the justification that work programs are good for morale.

Louisiana prison guards indicted in alleged inmate assaults

Source: Associated Press, April 19, 2018

Five former corrections officers at a Louisiana prison have been indicted on charges they conspired to assault handcuffed inmates and submitted false reports on the incident. The former officers at the Richwood Correctional Center in Ouachita (WASH’-ih-tah) Parish were charged in a seven-count federal indictment that was unsealed Thursday. …The March 29 indictment says Loring “stood by” and didn’t intervene when the other guards sprayed a chemical agent into the faces of five handcuffed inmates, who were kneeling on the floor in an area of the prison without surveillance cameras. … The officers tried to cover up the assault on the inmates by filing false reports on the incident to explain why the inmates needed medical treatment, the indictment says. … Richwood Correctional Center is a private prison operated by LaSalle Corrections. Louisiana’s corrections department regularly inspects the facility but doesn’t employ the officers who work there, according to department spokesman Ken Pastorick. …