Category Archives: Public.Safety

Signs protest Davenport school district’s outsourcing initiative

Source: Linda Cook, Quad-City Times, August 22, 2018
 
Last week, Davenport Schools Superintendent Art Tate floated the idea of outsourcing some services, if the district could save money and maintain or improve the quality of the service. Teaching jobs would not outsourced. Since then, signs saying “Protect Our Kids, No Outsourcing in our Schools” have appeared along West Locust Street and West Central Park Avenue opposing the concept. Union officials were aware of the signs, but said they have not taken an official stance on the issue. Earlene Anderson, the union representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME,) for East Central Iowa, which represents the district’s para-educators, security, custodial and food service-workers, among others, said “everything is still evolving.” …

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Orange Signs Popping Up Around Davenport
Source: Angie Sharp, WQAD, May 1, 2013

It’s a community campaign that is growing every day. Bright orange signs are popping up in front yards across the Davenport Community School District, reading “Protect Our Kids. No Outsourcing In Our Schools.” The signs are part of an effort to stop the District from outsourcing jobs such as custodians, nurses, security staff, maintenance crews, and more. The District’s Resource Allocation Committee, which looks at ways the District can reduce spending and save money, has recommended the possibility of conducting outsourcing studies…

Davenport school board hones in on $3.2 million in budget cuts
Source: Tara Becker, Quad-City Times, March 26, 2013

…To address the uncertainty in state funding, the district’s Resource Allocation Committee recommended that the district cut $3.25 million per year for the next five years to make sure the budget stays in the black. The committee, which is made up of 25 representatives of the school district and the community, recommended several budget reductions and other areas of study. One such recommendation by the committee is to outsource nursing, janitorial and other positions. The board has not yet to direct Tate to do a study on the issue….

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US government failing millions by paying below $15 an hour, study finds

Source: Mike Elk, The Guardian, August 10, 2018
 
The federal government employs more workers making less than $15 an hour than any other employer in the US, a new report has revealed.  The study, compiled by pro-union group Good Jobs Nation, analyzed federal data and showed that the government spends more than $1.6tn on federal contractors employing more than 12.5 million people with 4.5 million of those workers making below $15 an hour.  Many of these workers are employed by contractors as janitors, cafeteria workers, call center workers, administrative assistants and healthcare aides, and union campaigners say they are being kept on poverty wages. …

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Millions Flow to Pentagon’s Banned Contractors Via a Back Door

Source: Sam Skolnik, Bloomberg Government, August 6, 2018
 
Some of the world’s largest companies have benefited from a little-known law that lets the Defense Department override decisions barring contractors accused or convicted of bribery, fraud, theft, and other crimes from doing business with the government.  International Business Machines Corp., Boeing Co., BP Plc, and several other contractors have received special dispensation to fulfill multimillion-dollar government contracts through “compelling reason determinations.” That process allows the Defense Department in rare cases to determine that the need to fulfill certain contracts justifies doing business with companies that have been suspended from government work.  The 22 determinations were released by the General Services Administration at the request of Bloomberg Government, allowing for the first collective examination of the cases and the system that allowed them. …

… The determinations, also referred to as waivers or overrides, included contracts to provide food services for Defense Department personnel at an Army base in Afghanistan, “vital” web-hosting services for an agency that serves the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community, and aviation fuel sold to the Defense Logistics Agency. In some instances, contracting officials said the overrides were matters of life or death. Companies receiving waivers included some accused or convicted of major fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, ethical bidding violations, and in the case of fuel-seller BP, an overall “lack of business integrity.” In the most recent waiver case—issued just several weeks ago—an affiliate of one of South Korea’s largest conglomerates was suspended for allegedly bribing an Army contracting official and another man to deliver a $420 million contract involving expansion of a U.S. base south of Seoul. …

‘First of many’: Lawsuit filed against state contractor blamed for Eastpoint wildfire

Source: Jeffrey Schweers, Tallahassee Democrat, July 12, 2018

This week marked the first claim filed in Leon County against the Tallahassee contractor responsible for setting the prescribed burn that’s been identified as the cause of the 820-acre Limerock wildfire that destroyed 36 homes in Eastpoint. … The Vinson/Cooper/Hattaway complaint alleges that Wildlands was engaged in an “ultra-hazardous activity while engaging in a controlled burn” and is strictly liable for all damages caused by the wildfire. The company knew of the foreseeable risk, the complaint said, and “could have reasonably taken precautions to eliminate the risks of the controlled burn.” …

… Wildlands was contracted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to burn a 480-acre area within the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area to clear it of hazardous underbrush that can become fuel in a fire. The burn was ignited June 18 and extinguished six hours later. The next day, the burn boss said the burn went well and submitted an invoice for $26,400 to the FWC. The fire reignited June 24 and crossed over 600 acres of private land, razing several dozen properties a quarter-mile away on Buck Road, Ridge Road and Wilderness Road, leaving about 125 people homeless. A preliminary report by investigators with the law enforcement branch of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the prescribed burn caused the wildfire, ruling out arson and lightning. …

Federal Fraud Recoveries Decline in Fiscal Year 2017

Source: Project on Government Oversight, January 2, 2018

… The DOJ announced it had recouped $3.7 billion through settlements and judgments in False Claims Act cases in fiscal year 2017. This amount is nearly 23 percent lower than the previous fiscal year, but roughly in line with FY 2015’s total. This seems to be a trend: a historical analysis of DOJ’s fraud recoveries since 1986 (the year Congress substantially strengthened the False Claims Act) shows that, in recent years, a substantial drop-off occurs in non-election years. … As in past years, the largest share of the recoveries—about two-thirds—involved health care fraud. But a substantial sum also came from some of Uncle Sam’s largest contractors:

  • AECOM and Bechtel: $125 million to settle False Claims Act allegations that the contractors charged the government for deficient materials and services at the Hanford Nuclear Site. Separately, AECOM paid over $5.2 million to settle another fraud investigation involving its work at Hanford.
  • Agility: $95 million to settle a 12-year-old case accusing the company of overcharging the government for food supplied to U.S. troops in the Middle East.
  • Atlantic Diving Supply: $16 million for allegedly inducing the government to award small business contracts to companies misrepresenting their eligibility as socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses.
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries: $9.2 million to resolve claims of overbilling the government for work at its Mississippi shipyards.
  • Pacific Architects and Engineers: $5 million to settle allegations that it failed to properly screen and oversee personnel working on a contract to train Afghan security forces.
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation: $14.9 million for allegedly causing the government to pay inflated labor costs on contracts.
  • Defense contractors accounted for $220 million in fraud settlements and judgments.

KOSE demands active shooter training following shooting at Dept of Revenue office

Source: Devon Fasibnder, KWCH, October 5, 2017
 
The Kansas Organization of State Employees is demanding active shooter training for all state employees following the shooting of Cortney Holloway at the Wichita Department of Revenue office.  The letter, written by KOSE President Lisa Ochs, demands a security review of all state government buildings, public or privately owned, to ensure all employees are protected.  “Sadly, all indications are that the private building that houses the Department of Revenue offices where Cortney Holloway was shot lacked security measures that might have prevented this incident,” the letter reads. … Though the shooting at the Department of Revenue office happened less than a month ago, the KOSE Union writes, “Long before this incident, state employees have felt vulnerable and KOSE members have complained to management that they fear for their safety. Nothing was done. Something must be done now.” …

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Privatization Moved State Workers to Unsecured Office
Source: Associated Press, September 21, 2017
 
The head of Kansas’ state employees union and a local lawmaker say a push by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration to privatize state office space left employees vulnerable during a shooting this week at a Department of Revenue office in Wichita.  The workers were moved three years ago out of the now-vacant Finney Office building, which had guards and security, to a strip mall office that provided no security, The Wichita Eagle reported. On Tuesday, tax compliance officer Cortney Holloway was shot. … Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the larger Finney building with armed guards likely would have deterred a shooting.  …

Privatization moved state workers to unsecured office where shooting occurred
Source: Dion Lefler, Wichita Eagle, September 20, 2017
 
Workers at the Wichita tax office where an employee was shot Tuesday were moved out of a secured state office building into an unsecured storefront about three years ago, as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s program of privatizing office space.  A state senator and the head of the state employee union said they think Tuesday’s shooting probably would have been avoided had the Department of Revenue tax office still been housed in the now-vacant Finney State Office Building downtown instead of a strip mall at 21st and Amidon. … “I’m sure they would have been more secured at the Finney State Office Building,” said Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. “There were guards, there was protection.”  He said there was no protection Tuesday when tax compliance agent Cortney Holloway was shot at the Revenue Department office. …

Opinion: Judge orders O’Hare contractor to rehire workers who led strike

Source: Mark Brown, Chicago Sun-Times, August 23, 2017

Barnett and Subijano were abruptly fired from their jobs as private security guards at O’Hare Airport on April 13, 2016. Two weeks earlier they had joined other low-wage airport workers in a well-publicized, one-day unfair labor practice strike at O’Hare organized by the Service Employees International Union. The women’s employer, Universal Security Inc., contends it fired them because they made statements to the news media revealing “sensitive security information” about airport operations. That was always nonsense. They were fired because they had the nerve to publicly speak up about why they wanted to join a union, which included criticism of their limited training. …

Congress must continue to block Trump plan to sell BPA

Source: Union-Bulletin Editorial Board, August 8, 2017

Late last month the U.S. House Budget Committee approved a budget resolution that rejects privatizing the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration proposed by the Trump administration. A great move. The sooner this lousy proposal is dead the better it will be for Pacific Northwest residents who pay power bills — pretty much all of us. … President Donald Trump is calling for turning over the transmission network of power lines and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of hydropower from the Columbia and Snake rivers’ dams, to private companies. As Trump sees it, this would lower costs to taxpayers and improve efficiency. But in reality it would result in far higher rates for consumers. And putting the high-voltage grid in the hands of private investors — perhaps foreign investors — would create national security concerns. …

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Down the Mighty Columbia River, Where a Power Struggle Looms
Source: Kirk Johnson, New York Times, July 28, 2017

To ride down the Columbia River as the John Day Dam’s wall of concrete slowly fills the view from a tugboat is to see what the country’s largest network of energy-producing dams created through five decades of 20th-century ambition, investment and hubris. … Now, the Trump administration has proposed rethinking the entire system, with a plan to sell the transmission network of wires and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of the Columbia basin’s output, to private buyers. The idea is part of a package of proposals that would transform much of the infrastructure in the United States to a mixture of public and private partnerships, lowering costs to taxpayers and improving efficiency, administration officials said. Assets of two other big public power operators, based in Colorado and Oklahoma, would be sold, too, if Congress approves the measure.

Debates about government and its role in land and environmental policy are always highly charged. But perhaps nowhere could the proposed changes have a more significant impact than along the great river of the West — fourth largest by volume in North America, more than 10 times that of the Hudson. Privatization would transform a government service that requires equal standards across a vast territory — from large cities to tiny hamlets — into a private operation seeking maximum returns to investors. …

Nuclear Negligence

Source: Center for Public Integrity, August 1, 2017

Nuclear Negligence examines safety weaknesses at U.S. nuclear weapon sites operated by corporate contractors. The Center’s probe, based on contractor and government reports and officials involved in bomb-related work, revealed unpublicized accidents at nuclear weapons facilities, including some that caused avoidable radiation exposures. It also discovered that the penalties imposed by the government for these errors were typically small, relative to the tens of millions of dollars the NNSA gives to each of the contractors annually in pure profit.

  1. A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal: Repeated safety lapses hobble Los Alamos National Laboratory’s work on the cores of U.S. nuclear warheads
  2. Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production: A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks
  3. Light penalties and lax oversight encourage weak safety culture at nuclear weapons labs: Explosions, fires, and radioactive exposures are among the workplace hazards that fail to make a serious dent in private contractor profits
  4. More than 30 nuclear experts inhale uranium after radiation alarms at a weapons site are switched off: Most were not told about it until months later, and other mishaps at the Nevada nuclear test site followed
  5. Repeated radiation warnings go unheeded at sensitive Idaho nuclear plant: The inhalation of plutonium by 16 workers is preceded and followed by other contamination incidents but the private contractor in charge suffers only a light penalty
  6. Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials: Los Alamos laboratory’s recent mistakes in shipping plutonium were among dozens of incidents involving mislabeled or wrongly shipped materials associated with the nuclear weapons program

Scuba supply company pays $16 million to settle allegations it defrauded the military

Source: Aaron Greg, Washington Post, August 11, 2017

A Virginia Beach company that supplies advanced equipment for the U.S. military’s search-and-rescue operations has agreed to pay $16 million to settle allegations that it fraudulently obtained government contracts and engaged in illegal bid-rigging schemes, the Justice Department announced Thursday. … The Justice Department said the $16 million payment was one of the largest ever made in connection with small business contracting programs, enough money to put a lot of small businesses under water. But ADS isn’t so small anymore: it made about $1 billion from federal contracts last year, making it the 56th-largest defense contractor, according to Bloomberg Government. … The allegations concern a collection of federal programs meant to help small businesses learn the ropes of the complicated government procurement process and secure contracts. The Justice Department alleges the company managed to take advantage of these programs despite its size by relying on an elaborate network of smaller companies. …