Tag Archives: USD

Governor Pence Authorizes Bonuses of up to $1,000 to State Employees

29 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Governor Pence has authorized one time, end of year bonuses to be paid to State employees. The bonuses of up to $1,000 will be based on performance reviews to be completed in January. The Governor states that the bonuses are in lieu of pay raises and will not affect the budget. We would love to hear your opinions, is this sound fiscal policy? Sound off in the comments section.  

Here is the Governor’s letter to State of Indiana employees:

Fellow State Employees,
As 2013 draws to a close, I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for your service to the people of Indiana over the past year.
Through the efforts of dedicated State Employees like you, Hoosiers continue to receive quality service and support when interacting with our state government. Indiana is strong and growing stronger due, in part, to the commitment you exhibit every day in service to the public.
Because of your efficiency and commitment to fiscal discipline, Indiana leads the way with a balanced budget, AAA credit rating and a reputation for sound fiscal management.
While our present circumstances do not permit us to increase base pay, because your service to Indiana has been exemplary, I have authorized a bonus that you will receive once performance evaluations are completed in January.
Employees who meet expectations will receive a $500 bonus, those who exceed expectations will receive $750, and those rated outstanding will receive $1,000.
I hope this news will be an encouragement to you for a job well done in 2013.
Thank you for your service to the good people of Indiana. It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve alongside men and women like you.
God bless you and your family with a memorable holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Sincerely,
Governor Mike Pence

‘Cop Killer’ Manhunt Goes Nationwide

29 Dec

user24036-1388187688-media1
The manhunt for a “cop killer” was expanded today to a nationwide dragnet to find the suspected bank robber who fatally shot a Mississippi police officer two days before Christmas, according to the FBI. Tupelo Police Department officer Gale Stauffer and another officer were hit by gunfire Monday when they confronted suspected bank robbers during their getaway in the city. As the officers approached suspects in a vehicle, which was stuck in traffic at a railroad crossing, at least one of the suspects opened fire at close range, according to an account posted online at the Officer Down Memorial Page. The suspects fled, leaving Stauffer fatally shot and another officer critically wounded Stauffer “has made the ultimate sacrifice for his community,” Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said, urging the public to help “so that the criminal or criminals responsible for this horrendous act can be brought to justice.” After reviewing bank surveillance video from the robbery of a BancorpSouth bank in Tupelo, authorities are looking for a thin, possibly African-American man with light complexion, standing between 5-feet-9 and 6-feet tall, according to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The suspect seen in the surveillance video was wearing khaki or cargo-style pants, white Converse tennis shoes, a long-sleeved jacket and a blue ski mask, the state public safety department said. A charcoal-colored, medium-sized sedan might have been used as a getaway car. As part of the investigation, authorities also released a photo (shown below) of a “person of interest” standing in what appears to be a convenience store minutes before the robbery at the bank. Police did not discuss any possible connection to the bank shooting.More than 100 agents, officers, deputies and marshals worked through Christmas to track down the suspects, an FBI official said. The FBI, BancorpSouth and others are offering more than $152,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI’s tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).
Stauffer was a combat veteran of the Louisiana Army National Guard, and he had served with the Tupelo Police Department for eight years, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
He was married with two young children.

Carrie Hightman Tied to Bobby Rush Scandal

29 Dec

by Ken Davidson

A new investigation by the Illinois Better Government Association, while not specifically mentioning Hightman, calls the relationship between SBC Illinois and the Office of Congressman Bobby Rush into question. Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association is quick to point out “We’re not suggesting that Rush broke the law, but we are saying the fog needs to be cleared and real answers provided.” SBC Illinois was the donor of the $1M grant to Rush’s non-profit organization. The grant was supposed to build a technology center in Chicago’s troubled Englewood neighborhood. According to reports from the BGA, the center was never built and the money was never accounted for. Shaw calls for an investigation into:

[Rush] maintains the money wasn’t stolen or squandered, but that claim, without verification, doesn’t suffice, so we’re suggesting some options for shining more light on the situation:

The House Ethics Committee can see if Rush crossed any legal or ethical lines in regards to the million-dollar grant, his charity accepting tons of money from regulated companies seeking his legislative help, and his campaign office apparently not paying rent.
The Federal Election Commission can look at whether Rush or his campaign operation violated federal law by apparently accepting free rent, not reporting it as an in-kind donation and possibly exceeding donation limits.
The Internal Revenue Service can investigate the tax implications of all this, including whether Rush’s nonprofit violated the law by wrongly claiming on one disclosure form the tech center had been built, which wasn’t true.
The IRS can also find out if Rush used campaign cash to enhance his personal lifestyle, which is what got former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in trouble.
http://www.bettergov.org/the_million-dollar_question/?CategoryId=1

Any such investigation would obviously focus on whether or not the grantor received anything of value in return for the no strings grant. Regardless of whether there was any impropriety in the transaction, the situation calls into question the professional judgment of Hightman.

Carrie Hightman, the Chair of the Gary P3 Committee, became Chief Legal Office for NiSource in 2007 after serving as CEO of AT&T Illinois, which was formerly SBC Illinois. In a statement released when Hightman joined NiSource, her experience in ” regulatory, legislative, governmental and external affairs activities, as well as community and industry relations, throughout Illinois” were cited. The statement went on to explain:

During her tenure at AT&T, Hightman led the company through a series of important public policy initiatives as AT&T evolved from a traditional telephone company into a provider of diversified communications and entertainment services, including wireline, wireless, data and video services. Under her leadership, AT&T secured unanimous regulatory approval of a landmark agreement to deregulate local telephone service and offer competitive pricing in the metropolitan Chicago market, as well as helped the company return to the long distance telephone market after a twenty-year absence.

The SBC Foundation states that they provide grants of $25,000 to $50,000. The Gazette could find no evidence of any other single grant in any amount near $1M. Additionally, the 990 tax forms submitted by the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation listed no such contribution, despite a specific question asking about “Unusual Grants.”

28 Unusual Grants: For an organization described in line 10, 11, or 12 that received any unusual grants during 20001hrough 2003, prepare a list for your records
to show, for each year, the name of the contributor, the date and amount of the grant, and a brief description of the nature of the grant. Do not file this list with
your return. Do not include these grants in line 15.
423121 12-03-04 NONE Schedule A (Form BBO or 990-EZ) 2004

Source: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/364/364078159/364078159_200503_990.pdf
Hightman was instrumental in selecting the contractor that was recently approved by the airport board to run the airport for up to 40 years.  While this information was not disclosed to the airport board, the Gazette has previously reported on the connection between Hightman and one of the companies involved in the partnership that was ultimately selected.

The Better Government Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is not affiliated with the Northwest Indiana Gazette.  You can read the entire BGA article at their website  The Million Dollar Question

City of Gary Says Sheraton Project is Neighborhood Stabilization

19 Dec

by Ken Davidson

At last night’s meeting of the Gary Redevelopment Commission, the Board approved a contract for environmental monitoring of the Sheraton Hotel project. The contract was awarded to Shrewsberry and Associates, LLC of Indianapolis. Shrewsberry and Associates has strong ties to State democrats, including former Chairman of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee William Crawford. Crawford came under fire for not disclosing his financial interests with the Firm when he was appointed to Ways and Means. Shrewsberry no longer lists its Board of Directors on its website or in public filings that are readily available.

The original Request for Proposals for the demolition called for the contractor to include asbestos remediation and monitoring within the proposal. This additional cost was calculated into the bids submitted by others who were not aware that the Board would later hire another firm and pay that firm separately.

All of this is not unusual for Gary. Although the above is questionable, at best, the Gazette receives reports of such irregularities on a semi-consistent basis. What makes this proposal astounding is how the City apparently plans to pay for the additional cost. The Gazette has learned that the City has included the Sheraton Property in the 2014 Neighborhood Stabilization Plan.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. Through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed, abandoned and short-sale homes, the program’s goals is being realized.

The grant information provided by the City appears to reference this purpose:

[NSP] appropriates $2,717,859 for the purpose of assisting in the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.The grant program is commonly referred to as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).

The Times of Northwest Indiana Legal Notice 12-19-2013

The Notice goes on, however, to list the “neighborhood surrounding the old Sheraton Hotel and its adjoining garage located at 465 Broadway” as an area of additional need. The Sheraton is not only a commercial property, it lies in the major commercial zone of the City. Sitting between City Hall and a Township owned office building, the structure is blocks from any residential structure. The neighborhoods that SHOULD receive relief under the program will not receive the funding intended for them. In fact, it seems likely that Gary will end up repaying another very large grant to the Federal Government.

With 10,000 abandoned homes, one would think that every cent of the NSP funds would go toward rehabilitation of residences.

Reader Outlines Concerns Over Illiana

17 Dec

Letter to the Gazette:

On December 12, 2013, the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission
(NIRPC) voted to accept the Illiana Toll Road into their 2040 Comprehensive
Regional Plan. By voting the Illiana public/private partnership project into
the regional plan, the NIRPC commissioners are allowing the project to clear
one of the many hurdles in its path. Public comment was not allowed at this
final meeting until after the NIRPC commission members had already voted.
NIRPC Chairman and Crown Point Mayor David Uran stated that three meetings
had been held where public comment was allowed and commission members had
reviewed comments submitted by the public. I have my doubts about how many
of the commission members truly read through the valid arguments against
adding this toll road to the commission’s 2040 plan.
> Besides the environmental impact on the region, which has three major
environmental groups filing lawsuits to stop the Illiana Toll Road, two major
business magazines have had eye-opening columns that explain in great detail
the extreme cost to taxpayers when dealing with privately run toll roads.
Openlands, Sierra Club, and Midewin Heritage Association have taken legal
action to stop the toll road based on the inevitable consequences in areas
such as Des Plaines Conservation Area and Midewin Tallgrass Prarie in
Illinois. Bloomberg News and Crain’s Chicago Business both recently printed
columns exposing the fact that overly-optimistic projections take place in
almost all of these road projects. This has led private road companies to
seek “set” payments from the states instead of accepting any risk that tolls
may not match projections. This is a lose/lose situation for the taxpayer.
You pay the toll and pay the state taxes that also pay the difference of
these exaggerated estimates. This is corporate welfare on steroids!
> Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider let the cat out of the bag in
October of this year when interviewed by Crain’s reporter Greg Hinz. When
people throw around the 28,000 jobs between now and 2043, they are quoting
“job-years”(whatever the heck that means), not total new jobs. The actual
estimate is a possible “940 full-time jobs” created. Forty-seven miles of
road cutting through the most pristine farmland and homesteads, which rely
completely on wells for water, so two governors can create 940 jobs over the
next 30 years. It would be funny if it wasn’t so damn stupid and serious.
> Schneider also completely contradicted Indiana Rep. Ed Soliday’s claim at the
NIRPC meeting that a future Peotone Airport is playing no role in pushing
this project. According to Schneider, traffic projections for Illiana done
by IDOT assumed the Peotone Airport will eventually be built. I would have
told Ed that, but public comment was not allowed.
> At the meeting on the 12th of December, which was conveniently held on a
Thursday at 9:00AM in Portage, Indiana, INDOT Northwest Indiana Chief Bob
Alderman gave an impassioned, nearly 15-minute, speech about how the Illiana
Toll Road will make the Borman and I-65 safer for travel. Really, Mr.
Alderman? You truly believe widening I-65 between U.S. 231 and Route 30 will
make things safe when the toll road will be well south of U.S. 231? You
believe diverting traffic from U.S. 30 and the Borman between 2-percent and
8-percent over the next 30 years is going to make the Borman safe?
> I drove from Hammond to the Portage NIRPC meeting on the Borman in light
traffic and still had to drive ultra-defensively because people were driving
25-miles over the speed limit. How will building a toll road make people on
the Borman drive in a safe manner? Why not widen I-65 up to and south of the
toll road? Unlike what some are reporting in the news, the “widening” of
I-65 is NOT part of the Illiana Toll Road project. It is only being approved
at the same time.
> There is so much misinformation being thrown around in support of this toll
road that it is very hard to decipher truth from fiction at this time. But
what is for certain is that we have the governor of one of the most fiscally
sound state governments in the United States making a deal with one of the
most mismanaged states in the Union. Two major business magazines have
labeled this road a bad investment for Hoosiers. Our water will be
threatened by construction, possible hazardous waste trucking spills, and
distance from Lake Michigan and access to fresh water.
> The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) transportation research group’s
(TRIP) most recent study says that 11% of Indiana bridges are structurally
deficient and 22.5% of our roads are in poor condition. Between Illinois and
Indiana, well more than 100-million dollars has been spent just studying the
feasibility of the Illiana Toll Road. That money could have been better
spent fixing our current roads and bridges instead of creating temporary jobs
to build a road 22-miles south of the Borman.
> If I weren’t 100-percent convinced that the Illiana Toll Road will fail to
provide the estimated tolls or meaningful, permanent jobs, I wouldn’t be so
determined to stop this project. If I were convinced that building this road
would make the Borman, Route 30, or any other road around here safer, I would
be in favor of it. I don’t believe any of that. But don’t listen to me.
Look up the information for yourself. Study the facts about our watershed,
private toll roads, look up comments from Illinois Transportation Secretary
Ann Schneider and others who are not so adamant supporters of this project.
Is the purpose of a toll road to create permanent jobs?
>
Dan Blankenship, Lowell

Submit your letter, comments or thoughts to the Gazette:

Half a Billion Dollars . . .What Would You Do?

17 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The Mega Millions jackpot is truly mega this week, climbing to $636,000,000  If claimed by a single winner, the jackpot would set the current record for a single winner.  A Florida woman won $590M in the Powerball this year, setting a record for any lottery prize worldwide.  Skillful investing by the winner could gain him or her an entry into Forbes 400 Wealthiest List.  One would have to double the original take in order to make the list in today’s terms.

Despite the long odds, the potential mega prize has men dreaming of Ferrari’s and women dreaming of  . . . well whatever they dream of when they think about money.  What would you do if you won over half a billion dollars?  A unique home in the Carribean?  Become a benefactor to the less fortunate?  A savior to animals?

In my lottery dreaming I came across this site that may be of interest to the winner:  http://www.privateislandsonline.com/islands

Let us know in the comments.

ferrari-458

 

“Most Wanted” case highlights link between human, animal cruelty, multiple rewards offered

12 Dec

Gazette Staff

The U.S. Marshals Service and The Humane Society of the United States are alerting the animal welfare community of a fugitive on the USMS’ 15 Most Wanted List and are offering rewards for her capture. The fugitive, Janet Barreto, is allegedly linked to multiple puppy mill operations and the homicide death of a toddler.

Barreto may be selling small breed puppies or “rehoming” dogs for a fee through online classified ads using several different aliases. She may also be selling these dogs in flea markets and parking lots anywhere in North America, including Texas, California and Mexico, advertising in both English and Spanish. She has been linked to at least two puppy mills in recent years and she and her husband Ramon, who is also wanted, are well known for selling small dogs such as Yorkies, Maltese and poodle mixes. Following the death of a little girl in her care by blunt force trauma, the Barretos have been on the run for about five years.

According to the USMS, officials found seven other small children extremely malnourished and living in squalor in the couple’s Mississippi home in 2008. The Barretos were also running a puppy mill behind the home with more than 180 dogs and 50 cats, many of them sick or injured and living in inhumane conditions.

Melanie Kahn, senior director of the puppy mills campaign for The HSUS, said: “Too often, the boundaries are wafer thin between cruelty to animals and cruelty to the most vulnerable members of our society, young children. We hope that the dedicated animal welfare community will be the missing link in finding these fugitives.”

William D. Snelson, assistant director for Investigative Operations of the USMS said: “Our collaboration with The HSUS provides a unique opportunity for the USMS to broaden public awareness of this 15 Most Wanted investigation. We hope this partnership will ultimately result in additional leads that help bring Barreto to justice, while highlighting the horrors of puppy mill operations.”

There are several rewards that are available if a successful tip leads to the Barretos’ capture. The USMS is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading directly to Ramon and Janet Barreto’s arrest, and The HSUS offers a puppy mill tip line reward of up to $5,000 for successful prosecutions related to puppy mill cruelty.

Tipsters who may have information about the Barretos’ pet sales are urged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP. Those with general information on the location of Janet and/or Ramon Barreto, please call the U.S. Marshals Service at 1-800-336-0102 or email usms.wanted@usdoj.gov.

Background Information

  • In 2012, the Barretos resurfaced in Southern California, but were evicted from their rental property due to complaints about the noise and smell of animals.
  • When the Barretos fled California in June 2012, witnesses report that they had at least 10 dirty, neglected and malnourished dogs crammed in a cage in the back of their van.
  • Investigators were able to track the sale of several dogs through ads the Barretos placed before they fled California, but do not know what became of the dogs they still had in their possession.
  • The seven surviving children and the animals found by the USMS at the Mississippi home were placed with new families for care and treatment.

    woman wanted for child murder/animal abuse

    Name: Janet Killough BARRETO
    Alias: Janet KILLOUGH, Janet TORRES, Jeanie SEALE, Dealie HARRIS,
    Victoria LOPEZ, Vicky LOPEZ, Vicky ULLOA, Vicky CHRISTIAN,
    Vicky SMITH, Vicky Sara ULLOA