District subsidizes school lunches

Source: CAROLYN NORTON, The Herald-Sun (NC), Dec 12, 2005

Faced with the $400,000 subsidy this fall, the school board asked for an independent financial review of Sodexho’s program. The review, done by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, found that per-hour labor costs are too high. School district food service employees start at $10.14 an hour, higher than surrounding districts because of the higher cost of living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. However, the employees also average 15 years of service, raising the average wages to $12.73. In an effort to lower labor costs, the district is making new food service workers employees of Sodexho, which starts at $8.50 an hour, instead of hiring them directly. However, officials say, the process has been slow because food services has a turnover rate of less than 10 percent a year. Since 2003, when the board decided to switch new employees to Sodexho, 19 positions have been moved to the corporation, which could save the district $100,000 this year, officials say.

Houston controller investigating garbage contract

Source: MATT STILES, Houston Chronicle, Dec 9, 2005

City Controller Annise Parker said today that she has launched an audit into allegations that a contractor billed the city of Houston for collection and disposal of tons of garbage collected in neighboring municipalities. A second phase of the probe will look at the city’s Solid Waste Management department to ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent fraud and to “identify ways to make the department more effective and efficient,” Parker said. ….. Officials at the company under audit, Florida-based Republic Services, Inc., could not be reached for comment this morning. Parker, who said the company has agreed to pay $150,000 to fund the audit, also plans to look at whether the company ought to pay restitution.

'Brain drain' feared in job shift / State turning contracted positions over to in-house union workers

Source: Mary Massingale, Copley News Service (IL), Friday, December 9, 2005

As state government prepares to shift hundreds of contracted positions to union jobs by the end of the month, some contractors are warning a “brain drain” could cripple state programs serving the poor and disabled. ….. As part of an agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state is eliminating 913 “personal-services” contract workers by Dec. 31 and replacing about 600 of them with current and newly hired union employees. Of those 913, 308 are computer contractors and 280 will be replaced. The remaining contract positions are primarily clerical jobs.

Auditor names 'unsatisfactory' group home

Source: James Goodwin, Springfield News-Leader (MO), December 8, 2005

State Auditor Claire McCaskill on Wednesday named a Springfield group home for mentally retarded adults as the facility where “unsatisfactory” living conditions were discovered during a routine audit last month. Among problems reported at the Sagamont facility: soiled items in a shower and the prescription drugs of a former client in an unlocked refrigerator marked “Healthy foods.” ….. Gene Barnes, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Arc of the Ozarks, which operates Sagamont, said the facility has settled all concerns.

Medicaid to undergo 'the boldest reform' in HMO experiment

Source: MARC CAPUTO, Miami Herald (FL), Dec 9, 2005

From people with AIDS and diabetes to children and the seriously disabled, most of Broward County’s poorest and most fragile residents will be subjects of a nationally watched experiment to reshape Medicaid, after the Florida Legislature voted Thursday to turn over some control of the program to private companies. …… The plan, starting in Broward and Duval counties in July, puts the state on a five-year course to enroll nearly all of its Medicaid recipients into HMO-like managed-care companies. The firms will have unprecedented say in defining benefits that the government now decides.

Cities, towns agonize over ambulance contracts

Source: Tom Wyatt, Post-Tribune (IN), Dec. 8, 2005

…… Privatization is just one of several options town leaders will ponder in an effort to get Merrillville EMS out of a $250,000 hole created after functioning in the red for a number of years. But just the idea of privatization has put Merrillville paramedics on edge. If the town outsourced its EMS, the 12 full-time paramedics, as well as office staff, would be out of jobs. Part-time paramedics would have to find work elsewhere. Town officials, though, say they don’t want that to happen. Amid all the hubbub over privatization, they insist it is a last resort.

State feeling hijacked over computer update / Firm seeks another $20 million to finish job; deal in jeopardy

Source: April M. Washington, Rocky Mountain News (CO), December 7, 2005

The Colorado Department of Labor accused technology giant Accenture on Tuesday of trying to hijack the state for nearly $20 million more to complete an update of one of its computer systems. Rick Grice, the agency’s executive director, threatened to pull the plug on the deal, worth $40.8 million, if the New York-based company and the state cannot come to terms by end of the month to salvage the project. …. Labor is not the only Colorado department to complain about Accenture. Last week, the secretary of state announced she was pulling out of a $10 million contract with Accenture to build a new computer system to track voter registration.

Inmates fault care in Gwinnett death

Source: By KEN SUGIURA, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA), 12/07/05

Two Gwinnett County jail inmates say the company that provides health care at the facility largely ignored their repeated requests for help for their cellmate in the two days before her death. Harriet Washington, 43, of Norcross, died Oct. 17 in her cell. In a Nov. 8 letter addressed to the medical unit supervisor and the Sheriff’s Department’s internal affairs unit, inmates Kim Holmes and Carla Dotson allege that Washington’s multiple symptoms were for the most part ignored by staff from Tennessee-based Prison Health Services Inc., a private firm contracted by the county to provide medical care at the jail.

Comptroller says delayed security contracts put state employees at risk

Source: MARK JOHNSON, Associated Press (NY), December 6, 2005, 5:54 PM EST

Delays in issuing contracts for guard services continue to raise the security risks for state employees and people visiting state buildings while also wasting taxpayer funds, state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s office said Tuesday. A state comptroller’s audit conducted in 2001 and 2002 found that private security companies hired by the state’s Office of General Services provided hundreds of unlicensed and unqualified guards to protect state buildings, universities and other facilities. …. Steve Madarasz, a spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association, the largest state government employees’ union in New York, said the situation reflects poorly on Gov. George Pataki.

Bill will look at licenses / Services could be outsourced

Source: Nancy Cook Lauer, Tallahassee Democrat (FL), Dec 7, 2005

A bill that could lead to outsourcing the jobs of 1,614 state workers moved forward Tuesday in the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill, SB 268 by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, requires the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles study the outsourcing of driver’s licenses services to see if they can be done cheaper and better by the private sector. ….. The Division of Driver Licenses currently has a $98 million budget and employs 1,614 full-time employees, with about 1,000 of them scattered around the state in 100 field offices. ….. Fred Dickinson, director of the state agency, told lawmakers that he’d be glad to do the study. He said later that similar studies have found that the state can administer driver’s licenses more efficiently and economically than can the private sector.