Tag Archives: California

Paramedics Plus, Oklahoma agency settle federal kickback lawsuit

Source: Erin Mansfield, Tyler Morning Telegraph, April 3, 2018

A company with ties to the former East Texas Medical Center has settled a federal kickback lawsuit. Paramedics Plus was a subsidiary of the East Texas Medical Center health system that provided emergency medical services to an Oklahoma agency called Emergency Medical Services Authority. In January 2017, the Department of Justice filed suit against Paramedics Plus and the other defendants in the case alleging that Paramedics Plus paid more than $20 million in kickbacks to the Oklahoma agency.

… In March 2017, the East Texas Medical Center health system announced it would merge Paramedics Plus with a similar subsidiary and spin off the two emergency medical services entities into a new company. A month ago, the East Texas Medical Center health system completed a deal to sell its assets to Ardent Health Services, based in Tennessee, and the University of Texas system. The new entity is now called UT Health East Texas. Three weeks later, UT Health East Texas announced it would lay off about 400 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce, as part of a plan to bring the new health care system toward financial stability. …

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Justice Department moves forward in its case against ETMC, Paramedics Plus
Source: Roy Maynard, Tyler Morning Telegraph, May 12, 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice continues to build its case against East Texas Medical Center and its ambulance division, Paramedics Plus, in what they say is a $20 million kickback scheme to ensure Paramedics Plus retained lucrative contracts. Most recently, Justice Department attorneys filed a list of people they expect to depose in coming months. In all, more than 100 people could be deposed as this case moves forward. The government also filed a proposed schedule, which outlines when fact discovery will take place, when expert discovery will occur, deadlines for motions and trial preparation and finally, an expected timeframe for the start of the trial – summer of 2018. … In January, the Justice Department announced it would intervene in a lawsuit against ETMC and Paramedics Plus brought by a whistleblower – former employee Stephen Dean, who was Paramedics Plus chief operating officer. According to the suit, ETMC and Paramedics Plus paid more than $20 million in kickbacks and bribes, including cash payments to Oklahoma officials. …

You Paid For It: Pinellas Commissioners discuss ambulance kickback settlement Tuesday
Source: Mark Douglas, March 21, 2017

Former U.S Attorney Brian Albritton told Pinellas County Commissioners Tuesday that a federal lawsuit alleging ambulance fee kickbacks could have cost taxpayers as much as $1 billion if they lost in court. Commissioners agreed to settle the case involving Paramedics Plus Sunstar ambulance service for $92,700 and to forgo an estimated $500,000 in uncollected ambulance fees from patients. They will also have to pay legal fees to Albritton who the county secretly hired last year to resolve the case. Pinellas commissioners discussed the case publicly Tuesday for the first time since Eight On Your Side first broke the story of alleged kickbacks and a federal investigation of Pinellas County’s ambulance contract last month. That settlement, signed March 7 by Vice-Chair Kenneth Welch, requires the county to pay $92,700 to federal prosecutors, the Florida Attorney General and attorneys for the whistleblower–a former executive with Paramedics Plus. It also requires Pinellas County to turn over all documents and evidence gathered in the course of the county’s own internal investigation, and to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation and whistleblower action filed against Paramedics Plus in Texas.

… Since 2004, Paramedics Plus has operated as Pinellas County’s exclusive ambulance provider under the county-owned brand name Sunstar. The current county contract with Paramedics Plus amounts to about $50 million a year. In 2014, a former high-ranking executive of Paramedics Plus filed a whistleblower action in Texas that alleged an ongoing ambulance fee kickback scheme that stretched from Pinellas County to Oklahoma and California for over a decade. The scheme alleged by the whistleblower and federal prosecutors in a related legal action included so-called “profit cap” rebates that essentially funneled overcharges from Medicaid and Medicare to Pinellas County and other local governments that oversee public ambulance contracts. County leaders in Pinellas insist the “rebates” or “kickbacks’ in Pinellas totaled only $35,000 or so and ended up in county bank accounts, not someone’s pockets. In Oklahoma, the whistleblower suit alleges those kickbacks amounted to as much as $20 million. Federal prosecutors in Texas have cited specific acts of corruption in Oklahoma that include kickbacks, political payoffs and self-enrichment involving Paramedics Plus executives and government overseers in Oklahoma. … Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard says the settlement has no impact on the county’s ongoing $50 million a year contract with Paramedics Plus because the company has not been charged criminally or been found guilty of anything.

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Chico Animal Shelter to continue offering animal control and sheltering

Source: Dani Anguiano, Chico Enterprise-Record, March 26, 2018

The city of Chico will keep its animal control and shelter services in house. In December, the city announced it would re-examine contracting out those services and requested proposals from local groups to see what other providers could offer in regard to animal services and if that could help improve practices or cut costs. Butte Humane Society and Friends of the Chico Animal Shelter submitted proposals in response to the request, and supporters and representatives from those groups passionately made their case in letters to this newspaper and City Council members. City Manager Mark Orme made the determination not to recommend outsourcing animal control and sheltering services at this time, he said, and the matter will not come before the council unless requested. That is standard practice, Orme said, adding that one aspect of his job is to examine the viability of operations in the city on a continuous basis. …

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Letter: Animals deserve care offered by city government
Source: Sarah Downs, Enterprise-Record, December 14, 2017

Recently an article was published in the E-R regarding the city considering contracting out animal shelter services in the hopes of saving the city money. However, it took seven years to gain control of the shelter from the Butte Humane Society, and it wasn’t entirely to save money. BHS ran the shelter for over 25 years, and there were big problems regarding animal care and general operations and costs. Since the city took over, the shelter has been run cleanly, efficiently, with a high level of care, and the euthanasia rate has plummeted. It’s been five years since the city took over, and I think the operations are something we can be proud of. … Finally, historically speaking, relations between BHS and the city have often been strained. With all of the information I’ve personally been able to gather, it seems contracting out to BHS would result in resorting to old practices causing a detriment to the animals of our community. …

Chico Animal Services, Animal Control could be contracted out
Source: Ashiah Scharaga, Enterprise-Record, December 1, 2017

The city could be contracting out the services at the Chico Animal Shelter, as well as those provided by Animal Control. City staff will start gathering program proposals this winter and present everything to the City Council in the coming months, according to Assistant City Manager Chris Constantin. … The city may chose to contract out all, some or none of the services, and the decision will ultimately rest with the City Council. Animal Services Manager Tracy Mohr said the city animal shelter has done a fantastic job of reducing euthanasia rates and having positive outcomes for animals. … Four years ago, the city considered contracting out services at the shelter and many other departments when the city was not as financially stable. …

GEO Group sues Washington to keep privately run immigration detention center open

Source: Beryl Lipton, MuckRock, March 23, 2018

Yesterday, the GEO Group, one of the world’s largest for-profit prison companies, decided to push back against attempts in the the American Northwest to limit their immigrant detention operations, filing suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against the City of Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma is home to the only detention facility in the state dedicated exclusively to holding violators of immigration and entry laws, the Northwest Detention Center. Washington is just one of the West Coast states actively challenging the immigration policies of the current Presidential administration. …

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Private Prison May Have to Boost Detainees’ Wages
Source: June Williams, Courthouse News, December 7, 2017

Washington State can pursue claims that the private prison company GEO Group failed to pay federal immigration detainees the state’s minimum wage, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. GEO could not prove that the state’s minimum wage law as applied to detainee wages is preempted by federal law, and the state has a valid interest in pursuing the case, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan ruled. Washington sued GEO in September for violating the state’s minimum wage laws. GEO Group is one of the country’s largest operators of private prisons. …

Detention center contractor asks judge to toss lawsuit over $1-a-day pay
Source: Gene Johnson, Associated Press, November 20, 2017
 
A federal judge is considering whether to throw out two lawsuits, including one by the state of Washington, that seek to force one of the nation’s largest privately run immigration detention centers to pay minimum wage for work done by detainees. The GEO Group, the for-profit company that runs the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, is asking U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan to dismiss the cases, saying Washington doesn’t have authority to bring the lawsuit and that the state’s minimum wage law is overridden by Congress’ decision to set rates for work performed by detainees. …

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Republican congressmen defend $1 a day wage for immigrant detainees who work in private prisons

Source: Tracy Jan, Washington Post, March 16, 2018
 
A group of 18 Republican congressmen is urging the Trump administration to defend private prisons against lawsuits alleging immigrant detainees are forced to work for a wage of $1 a day.  The members say that Congress in 1978 had explicitly set the daily reimbursement rate for voluntary work by detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities, and that the same rate should apply in government-contracted private prisons. … In the March 7 letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, the congressmen argue that the detainees are not employees of private prisons, so they should not be able to file lawsuits seeking to be paid for their work. … At least five lawsuits have been filed against private prisons, including GEO and CoreCivic, over detainee pay and other issues. The lawsuits allege that the private prison giants use voluntary work programs to violate state minimum wage laws, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, unjust enrichment and other labor statutes. The state of Washington sued GEO last year for violating its minimum wage of $11 an hour and sought to force the company to give up profits made through detainee labor. … Inmates in Colorado and California have also sued the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, alleging that they were forced to work for $1 per day to pay for necessities like food, water and hygiene products. …

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Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor
Source: Ian Urbina, New York Times, May 24, 2014

… As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities. … The federal authorities say the program is voluntary, legal and a cost-saver for taxpayers. But immigrant advocates question whether it is truly voluntary or lawful, and argue that the government and the private prison companies that run many of the detention centers are bending the rules to convert a captive population into a self-contained labor force. … Officials at private prison companies declined to speak about their use of immigrant detainees, except to say that it was legal. Federal officials said the work helped with morale and discipline and cut expenses in a detention system that costs more than $2 billion a year. … The compensation rules at detention facilities are remnants of a bygone era. A 1950 law created the federal Voluntary Work Program and set the pay rate at a time when $1 went much further. (The equivalent would be about $9.80 today.) Congress last reviewed the rate in 1979 and opted not to raise it. It was later challenged in a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets workplace rules, but in 1990 an appellate court upheld the rate, saying that “alien detainees are not government ‘employees.’ ”…

Napolitano addresses higher education access, student support at LA event

Source: Anirudh Keni, Daily Bruin, March 19, 2018
 
University of California President Janet Napolitano said at an event Monday the University is working to expand access to higher education by accepting more transfer students and improving academic advisory and student support programs. Napolitano spoke to UC regents and local high school students at City Club in Los Angeles about the different ways the University is helping more people attend the UC. Napolitano was briefly interrupted by members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, the UC’s largest union, protesting UCLA’s decision in August to end its contract with ABM Industries, a facility management company that employed valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The protesters, who chanted “UCLA, hire the valets,” claimed UCLA’s decision has led to workers losing their jobs or being transferred to other locations that do not offer the same wages or benefits UCLA provides. …

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LACMA’s Art + Film Gala honors Mark Bradford and George Lucas
Source: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2017

Earlier in the evening, UCLA service and hospital workers who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union tried to steer some of the focus to the Westside by protesting the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s treatment of contract valet workers. They chanted,“David Geffen make it right, support valet workers’ rights,” referring to the philanthropist who recently pledged $150 million toward the construction of a new Peter Zumthor-designed building for LACMA. “More than 40 immigrant service workers have lost their jobs,” union organizer Paul Waters-Smith said. “David Geffen is the most prominent backer to UCLA Health. He can, with a phone call, make it right.”

UCLA student groups advocate for medical center valet workers 
Source: Sharon (Yu Chun) Zhen, Daily Bruin, October 24, 2017

UCLA labor- and immigration-justice groups held a town hall meeting Monday night to urge UCLA to create more insourced positions for contract valet workers at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.  … Victoria Salgado, a union organizer at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, the UC’s largest union, said many workers are concerned for their job security because they received unclear notifications in July and September about their employment dates. … Owen Li, a senior researcher for AFSCME Local 3299, said the UC has been increasing executive pay while cutting benefits for workers.  “The University of California literally wastes billions of dollars on hedge funds, management bloats and on these crazy executive perks,” he said.  The UC has 67 percent more overall staff than in 1993, and the number of senior managers has increased by 327 percent since 1993, Li added.  Li said most of the jobs UCLA is offering to current valet workers are part-time jobs, which he he thinks do not offer enough pay to live on. …

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Council unanimously votes to take back library operations

Source: Andrew Clark, The Signal, January 9, 2018

Santa Clarita decided to take back full control of its library system Tuesday evening. The Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously to end a contract with Library Systems and Services, LLC, and independently operate and staff the Santa Clarita Public Library system. … he move looks to save the city about $400,000 in what would be the city’s first fiscal year of operations. The decision comes nearly seven years after the city pulled the libraries out of the county system and contracted with Library Systems and Services to operate and staff libraries in Newhall, Valencia and Canyon Country. City documents noted the city initially had success with LSSI as library hours were expanded and the annual budget for books and materials was increased, but the company’s performance has declined in recent years. …

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Privatization–and Pushback–Proceed in Santa Clarita
Source: Beverly Goldberg, American Libraries, July 27, 2011

…. Mayor McLean’s sentiments about public accountability are echoed in a new toolkit from ALA’s Office for Library Advocacy. However, “Keeping Public Libraries Public: A Checklist for Communities Considering Privatization of Public Libraries” makes no bones about ALA’s opposition to library privatization. …. That distinction has also captured the interest of the California legislature, where a bill is being considered that would regulate under what circumstances the management of a library that is withdrawing from a free county library system could be privatized.

Charter Schools Are Reshaping America’s Education System for the Worse

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, January 4, 2018
 
Charter schools have been hailed as the antidote to public-school dysfunction by everyone from tech entrepreneurs to Wall Street philanthropists. But a critical autopsy by the advocacy group Network for Public Education (NPE) reveals just how disruptive the charter industry has become—for both students and their communities.  Charter schools are technically considered public schools but are run by private companies or organizations, and can receive private financing—as such, they are generally able to circumvent standard public-school regulations, including unions. This funding system enables maximum deregulation, operating like private businesses and free of the constraints of public oversight, while also ensuring maximum public funding. …

… The Los Angeles Unified School District has seen dramatic effects from the expansion of charter schools as it wrestles with budget crises. … NPE’s investigation found a similar pattern at a BASIS charter school in Arizona, part of a nationwide charter network. … Examining the broader social impact of charters, NPE tracked financial manipulation and fraud at various schools. … Another subsurface problem at many schools is harder to measure: Charters are known for high faculty-turnover rates. … Charters may offer a different relationship to communities, but their brand of “free market” schooling carries costs. Who accounts for the lost social opportunities when education becomes just another market investment?

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Fight for Escondido library heads to court

Source: Steve Puterski, The Coast News Group, December 1, 2017

Dozens of supporters rallied at the city’s public library and marched to City Hall on Nov. 28 to protest the decision by the City Council to privatize the facility. San Diego-based consumer attorney Alan Geraci served the city papers and filed a lawsuit in the Vista Superior Court challenging the council’s Oct. 18 decision enter a 10-year agreement for Maryland-based Library Systems & Services to operate the library. LS&S operates 20 library systems in 80 states, according to its website, and will take over operations on Dec. 18. …

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Escondido privatizes public library
Source: Sharon Chen, FOX5, August 24, 2017

The Escondido City Council voted Wednesday night to privatize the city library, ignoring pleas from hundreds of residents who turned out to oppose the move.
The City Council chamber was packed for the meeting, with the vast majority of attendees clearly concerned about the plan to turn the city’s library over to Library Systems and Services, a Maryland-based management company. … The management company has said that current library employees will be offered jobs. … In the end, council members were swayed by the city manager’s economic arguments and voted to approve the management contract, becoming the first community in San Diego County to privatize their public library.

Opposition to Escondido library outsourcing grows
Source: J. Harry Jones, San Diego Union Tribune, August 9, 2017

Narly 200 angry residents were thrilled Tuesday afternoon when the Escondido Library Board of Trustees unanimously decided to recommend that the City Council not outsource the city’s library services to a private company. … Probably late this month during a meeting scheduled for Aug. 23, the council will decide whether to contract with Library Systems & Services (LS&S), a Maryland-based company that operates more than 80 public libraries around the United States. During the meeting, City Manger Jeff Epp sat quietly in the back of the library’s Turrentine room, which was packed with passionate opponents of the plan. Afterward, he said it has not yet been decided whether the city’s staff will suggest the council move forward with the outsourcing plan. … LS&S, the only private company in the country that offers such services, would replace roughly three dozen city library employees, although some of the longest-serving workers would be eligible for other city jobs. The rest would be given the option of working for the company, but without the many benefits that come with working for the city such as an attractive pension plan. …

Union Action Sparks Awareness as Labor Issues Continue

Source: Eliza Partika, New University, December 6, 2017
 
The UC’s largest workers union, AFSCME 3299,  is still fighting for renewed service workers’ contracts with their latest protest on Nov. 28 and 29 at UCI Medical Center. According to a press release, the protest, which aimed to address UC’s work contracting and a potential wage increase among other demands, yielded a negative response from the UC, which called it “out of reality and not logical.”  Students and campus union workers marched to The Anteatery on Oct. 21 in support of students and campus workers who have been allegedly abused by Aramark, a private company which contracts food services for UCI. … Aramark, according to an anonymous AFSCME organizer, has been forcing non-union workers to work without necessary support due to UCI’s increased enrollment. ….

San Mateo County officials, non-profits say labor bill would harm services

Source: Michael McLaughlin, Peninsula Press, November 19, 2017
 
Nonprofits and many California counties are gearing up for a possible showdown in Sacramento against the state’s service employees union over a bill that could make it harder for local governments to contract with outside organizations that provide critical services.  AB 1250, a labor bill that proposes new requirements that opponents say could make it difficult for counties to outsource services, stalled in September in the Senate Rules Committee but is eligible to be acted upon again as early as January.  The struggle to pass it pits the Service Employees International Union, a North American labor group with 1.9 million members, against nonprofits who fear their budgets will be slashed if county governments face new hurdles to work with them. …

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California Today: Battle Over a Bill Reaches the State Senate
Source: Mike McPhate, New York Times, August 24, 2017

An intense debate is being waged in Sacramento over a proposal that would alter how crucial services are provided to Californians. Sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, the measure would require that counties adhere to a raft of new conditions before contracting out for services in health care, housing, public safety and other areas. …

Editorial: California Democrats’ labor of love for unions
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 2017

A union-backed bill to pad local government payrolls has been steadily diminished by those with the clout to fend off organized labor and its numerous friends in the California Legislature. The state’s cities got a reprieve from the bill en masse. So did San Francisco, the state’s only city and county, and Santa Clara County. All that’s left for the state Senate is to finish the job and kill this misbegotten bill altogether. … The bill’s onerous conditions leave little doubt that its intent is to discourage and eliminate private contracts in favor of expanding government payrolls and union membership. It threatens to needlessly inflate public spending and disrupt a range of services, many of them routinely provided by nonprofits serving the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable people. A legislative analysis found that the bill would bring about “potentially major local cost increases or service reductions” and could affect “a broad array of services.” …

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