State audit finds privatized payroll often late, wrong

Source: By POLLY ROSS HUGHES, Houston Chronicle (TX), Jan. 18, 2006, 12:34AM

AUSTIN – Health department staffers discovered overdrafts on their personal checking accounts last fall when a private payroll contractor missed deposit deadlines for 80 workers, according to a highly critical state audit released Tuesday. Other state workers reported that they didn’t get paid on time or they didn’t get paid correctly, including for overtime. But when the Texas Health and Human Services Commission stepped in to fix problems under a contract with the global billing services firm, Convergys Corp., new obstacles arose.

Union appeals privatization of developmental center

Source: By Sara Eaton, The Journal Gazette (IN), Wed, Jan. 18, 2006

A state employees union is appealing last month’s ruling that allowed the Jan. 1 takeover at the Fort Wayne State Developmental Center, a union spokesman announced late Tuesday. An employee, Anita Stuller, and her union filed a lawsuit against Gov. Mitch Daniels, Family and Social Services Secretary Mitchel Roob and another state leader in early December. The lawsuit sought to at least temporarily stop the takeover of the center and to force the state to go through a bidding process before giving control to a private company. In May, state officials hired Pennsylvania-based Liberty Healthcare Corp. to manage the center on an 18-month contract. The company took over operations of the center at 4900 St. Joe Center Road on Jan. 1.

Jail board approves privatizing

Source: J.D. Prose, Beaver County Times, (PA), 01/18/2006

BEAVER – Nearly two years after the Beaver County Commissioners first talked about privatizing the Beaver County Jail, the county prison board on Tuesday authorized them to contract with a Massachusetts company to run the Hopewell Township facility. “It’s a contract that is good for the county,” said Rick Towcimak, prison board member and county controller. “Our duty is to the taxpayers, to give them efficient government,” said Commissioners Chairman Dan Donatella, who is also the prison board chairman. Under the proposed contract with CiviGenics, the county would save a projected $5 million over the next three years. Most of the savings would come from the county no longer employing jail guards and having to pay their salaries and benefits.

Report has no clarity about rape of inmate

Source: JONATHAN ABEL, St. Petersburg Times (FL), January 14, 2006

BROOKSVILLE – Daniel Ray Warren died in the Hernando County Jail on Nov. 2. In 21/2 months, allegations have come out that Warrem was battered and raped. On Friday, the Sheriff’s Office released its final report on Warren’s death, which found that he died of “self-inflicted hanging” and was beaten by other inmates while in jail. ….. The sheriff’s report brought up new names that were not included in earlier reports compiled by Corrections Corp. of America, the private company that operates the jail.

The real scandal: moves to privatize higher education

Robert Meister, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, January 15, 2006

Revelations of secrecy and possible self-dealing in the compensation of some of the University of California’s top administrators expose a problem deeper than the need for more transparent “communication” of the rationale behind them. The more significant issue is the rationale itself: the goal of privatizing higher education in California, which was made explicit in the recent “compact” between University of California President Robert Dynes, California State University Chancellor Charles Reed and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Privatized tax collector deferred

Source: Loren Moreno, Honolulu Advertiser (HI), Friday, January 13, 2006

It could cost the state at least $3.6 million to set up a new system to allow a private company to collect the general excise tax on behalf of the city and the state, said Kurt Kawafuchi, director for the state Department of Taxation. And while Kawafuchi supports the idea, he may be one of the few. For many others, a proposed agreement between the city and the state to privatize the collection of the general excise tax is the latest example of “bad public policy.” Under the proposal unveiled Wednesday during a City Council Budget Committee hearing, a private company would collect the 4 percent general excise tax and the city’s 0.5 percent surcharge. ….. But Randy Perreira, deputy executive director of the Hawai’i Government Employees Association, said the plan would have no effect on the existing government workforce. Instead, he said the proposal is “stupid.”

Panel questions state prison's use of salary savings

Source: Rob Moritz, Arkansas News Bureau, Jan 13, 2006

LITTLE ROCK – A legislative committee Thursday questioned the state Department of Correction’s use of $8 million in salary savings from open positions for other needs within the prison system. Prison officials went before lawmakers seeking permission to take the money from the agency’s regular salaries account. Prison Director Larry Norris said about $5.5 million of the money would be placed in the system’s medical assistance account. ….. Two prison units in Newport, the Grimes Unit and McPherson Unit, were managed by the Wackenhut Corrections Corp. of Coral Gables for several years, but management problems forced the state to retake control, the prison director said. “We’ve tried it and it did not work,” Norris said. “In my opinion, they can’t do it better for less.”

Kickbacks admitted in work for New Orleans / Subcontractor pleads guilty, says he paid official

Source: By Bruce Eggler, Times-Picayne (LA), Thursday, January 12, 2006

Federal prosecutors rang up another conviction Wednesday in their probe of a scheme to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars from a huge energy-efficiency contract awarded during former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial’s tenure at City Hall. Under an agreement with prosecutors, Michael Garnett, a subcontractor who did work under the $81 million Johnson Controls Inc. deal, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for knowing about crimes related to the scheme but failing to inform authorities, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said. Garnett is the fifth subcontractor to enter a guilty plea related to the Johnson Controls contract, Letten said.

CCA loses contract to house 500 inmates in Arizona

Source: Nashville Business Journal – 5:08 PM CST Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has notified Corrections Corp. of America that it won’t be renewing the company’s contract to house federal inmates at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. At the end of 2005, the 1,500-bed Eloy prison housed about 500 inmates from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and 800 detainees for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The 500 inmates will be transferred to other facilities in the federal system by Feb. 28. The BOP said the decision wasn’t because of performance issues, but resulted from internal streamlining initiatives. ….. CCA operates 63 prisons, 38 of which are company owned, in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Investigation launched in school food incident

Source: By Dawn Marks, The Oklahoman, Jan 11, 2006

BETHANY – Western Oaks Middle School students were back in school Monday after being served food that was left out over the holiday break. In addition, Sodexho, the service company that provides food to the school, is investigating the incident to make sure it doesn’t happen again, company spokeswoman Stacy Bowman-Hade said. Some students became ill Thursday after eating hamburgers that were wrapped in foil and left in the food warmer Dec. 20, the last day of classes before break.