Another corrupt Bell, California official, one of the group who raided the treasury and bilked the taxpayers, has been convicted of a slate of corruption charges. Angela Spaccia faces a sentence of up to a dozen years in prison for her deplorable deeds and membership in a ring of corrupt bureaucrats.
The verdict comes more than three years after the city in southeast Los Angeles County was engulfed in scandal, with revelations of extraordinary salaries, illegal taxes, the lending of city money, and documents that lied about the real salaries of city leaders.
Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun, argued that his client was victimized by Rizzo and then exploited by then-Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley as he ran for state attorney general.
Before she was ousted from her job as assistant chief administrative officer in 2010 when The Times revealed the huge paychecks Bell officials were receiving, Spaccia was accumulating sick and vacation days at such an accelerated rate that when she cashed them out each year, it amounted to a 50% pay increase.
Prosecutors painted her as an architect of the wrongdoing in Bell, saying that she wrote her own contract as well as those for other ranking city employees, including Rizzo, who was earning $1.18 million a year when he was forced out.
JLF’s Becki Gray lays out the consequential reforms passed by the General Assembly this year and signed into law by the governor.
Tax reform actually started in 2011, when a new Republican majority in the General Assembly allowed Democrats’ “temporary” one-cent sales tax hike to sunset, amounting to a $1.3 billion tax cut. They repealed the land transfer tax option, an additional tax on the sale of real property.
After that initial positive step, the General Assembly and a new governor got serious in 2013 about transforming a 70-year-old tax system. North Carolina now has a flat personal income tax rate — 5.8 percent for 2014 and 5.75 percent in 2015. No more higher rates for higher earners, just a simpler, fairer system.
The corporate tax rate (which was highest in the Southeast at 6.9 percent) will drop to 6 percent in 2014, 5 percent in 2015, and 3 percent by 2017, assuming the state government meets revenue targets. Dozens of carve-outs and special treatments were eliminated from the sales tax system. The death tax was eliminated.
These reformers deserve our thanks. They stood up to entrenched special interests, took the arrows that come with being a reformer, and have helped put North Carolina back on the path to prosperity.
Jenna Ashley Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education recently testified before a U.S. House subcommittee about college affordability and Pell grants. Her testimony can be found here. An excerpt:
To further reduce costs, we must ensure that students are using Pell grants as intended. Reports indicate that some students obtain Pell grant funds but do not complete their courses. Thus, colleges and universities should place limits on students’ Pell grant money.
In North Carolina, Central Piedmont Community College has implemented several new policies to do that. They include: not disbursing grant money until after 10 percent of the semester has been completed; not disbursing money if students haven’t attended during the first 10 percent of the semester; disbursing money in two parts over the semester to make sure that the students stay around; limiting what can be purchased with financial aid in the bookstore; and a counseling and advising department that tracks academic progress and puts students on probation or suspension.
Because of low graduation rates under the current system, grants should go to students who are prepared for the challenge of college work. Academic requirements for initial Pell eligibility should be tightened.
…..because under ObamaCare, you may not get to keep him/her — unless you pay more. Take a listen to Zeke Emanuel, one of the creators of ObamaCare.
The ObamaCare train wreck continues down the track toward millions of Americans.
Carolina Journal’s Don Carrington reports here on the upcoming trial involving Attorney General Roy Cooper.
A defamation lawsuit filed 13 years ago by Gene Boyce and three other Raleigh attorneys against Attorney General Roy Cooper, his 2000 campaign committee, and campaign worker Julia White finally is scheduled for a jury trial in April. On Friday, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III, who was assigned to preside over the case, set a trial date of April 28.
The plaintiffs allege that Cooper and his committee ran a political ad that was defamatory and constituted an unfair and deceptive trade practice, and that they participated in a conspiracy to violate a North Carolina law prohibiting false ads during election campaigns.
What specifically is the lawsuit about?
One week before the 2000 election, Cooper’s campaign started running a television ad that read: “I’m Roy Cooper, candidate for attorney general, and I sponsored this ad. Dan Boyce: His law firm sued the state, charging $28,000 an hour in lawyer fees to the taxpayers. The judge said it shocks the conscience. Dan Boyce’s law firm wanted more than a police officer’s salary for each hour’s work. Dan Boyce — wrong for attorney general.”
The ad contained statements that were not true. When the advertisement was running, Dan Boyce, Gene Boyce, Philip Isley, and Laura Isley were partners at the Boyce & Isley law firm in Raleigh. Dan Boyce did not work on the lawsuit the ad referenced, also known as the Smith case. The Boyce & Isley law firm had not been created. Gene Boyce and attorneys from the Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice law firm filed the Smith lawsuit.
Also, Gene Boyce was not the candidate, and he did not charge $28,000 an hour to the taxpayers in the Smith case. The judge sets legal fees in class-action lawsuits, and the final payment to the attorneys was less than 10 percent of the amount Boyce initially requested and much lower than the amount alleged in the ad.
Cooper continued running ads making those statements after Boyce & Isley formally requested that they be pulled and retracted, Boyce’s lawsuit says. On the second day the ad ran, Boyce & Isley notified the Cooper Committee in writing about the statements in the ad and requested that he retract them immediately. Cooper ignored the request and continued to run the ads. Gene Boyce said that Cooper’s ad ran at least three times a day for seven days on more than 20 television stations.
The four attorneys filed their lawsuit the day before the election. In three court filings from 2003 and 2008, Cooper stated, “The political advertisement is true.”
It’s keystone cops time in Durham, and this Herald-Sun editorial calls for the man at the center of it — Durham Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats — to go. Becoats’ troubled history with the system is well known: using a school bus for his family’s personal shopping outing and questionable uses of the system credit card. The latest fiasco involves the system’s rainy day fund, which either no one is watching, or they’re watching it and keeping the balance hidden.
Last spring, during budget negotiations, the school board pushed back hard at County Manager Mike Ruffin’s recommendation to allocate the same amount in local funds (the bulk of the school’s funding comes from the state) this fiscal year as last.
Pointing to a fund balance of only $4 million, which they thought was dangerously low, school officials pleaded for, and got, another $2.4 million.
Turns out, though, the system’s end-of-the-year audit showed a balance of $19.7 million.
As JLF’s Jon Ham pointed out here, the revelation is outrageous and shows there’s plenty of incompetence to go around.
The newspaper’s recommendation is this:
This is a broken relationship. Becoats’ performance as superintendent has become a serious distraction in a district that can afford nothing less than laser-like focus on improving its instructional results. It threatens the school’s standing with the purse-string-holding commissioners.
It is time for him to go.
Everybody’s pointing fingers today after it was learned that the Durham Public Schools had a much larger reserve fund than anyone claims to have known.
County commissioners say they never would have given the schools any extra money for this year if they had known the figure was actually $19.7 million and not $10-$12 million. School board members said they didn’t know they had so much money. They thought it was $4 million, which is what they told the commissioners. They’re trying to blame the Supt. Eric Becoats, who is on the hot seat for various reasons.
No matter how you look at it, this shows mass incompetence by all involved, including the media, which, in the past eras, would have been the ones to notify everyone of the incompetence long before the county manager could spill the beans publicly.
Board of Commissioners member Ellen Reckhow said, “Now we may have to do more due diligence in the future and require more verification.” Uh, yeah. Too bad that wasn’t done before now.
Every party has expressed concern for a loss of credibility and trust with the others involved. I haven’t heard anyone worry about a loss of credibility and trust on the part of taxpayers.
Stockton, California spent, borrowed, and promised its way into bankruptcy.
City leaders had also gone on a construction spree during the flush years, building a new sports arena, a minor-league baseball stadium and a marina. Citizens still bitterly mention the 2006 concert that opened the arena, where Neil Diamond was paid $1 million to perform.
And through it all, the pension costs for city workers — particularly for police officers and firefighters, who can retire early and draw on those pensions for decades — kept going up.
And now — surprise, surprise — bondholders are about to take it in the shorts while outrageous public pensions are going untouched.
Two Franklin funds hold about $35 million of bonds that Stockton issued in 2009 and are now in default. Stockton is proposing to pay the two Franklin funds just $95,000 to discharge all the remaining debt on those bonds, amounting to less than a penny on the dollar.
Douglass Wilhoit Jr., chief executive of the Stockton Chamber of Commerce, agreed that “the elephant in the room is the pension stuff.”
I recently spoke with Jane Shaw of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy about the student loan default problem and whether or not universities should assume some responsibility for it. Here’s part of our Carolina Journal Radio conversation.
Martinez: Do universities have any risk at all? Is there any skin in the game when a student defaults on their loans?
Shaw: There isn’t any. There is a slight reprimand if a school has 30 percent of its graduates within a two-year or three-year period default. Then they get into a little bit of trouble with the [U.S.] Department of Education. And maybe once a year, there are a couple of schools that are dropped from the federal program. But by and large — no. For the 4,000 or so schools that we have in the country, there is no skin in the game.
Martinez: I mentioned 375,000 students defaulting in 2010. Is that a lot? What percentage are we talking about here?
Shaw: Well, that’s about 9 percent, and that means that within two years of their graduating or leaving school, they’re allowed a six-month kind of hiatus, I guess, and then they have to start paying. And so by two years after they graduate, 9 percent have not — nationally — have not been able to pay. And yet, a definition of default is, I think, six months of nonpayment. So that means you have to be in a pretty bad situation to get that. The Department of Education is now expanding that to three years, so within three years of graduation, the figure is higher. It’s more like 13 percent.
Martinez: What about in North Carolina?
Shaw: It’s very hard to get default rates actually, because some schools apparently don’t reveal them, but in the University of North Carolina system currently, the figure is about 6 percent.
Martin Bashir has left MSNBC following his vile, disgusting verbal assault on former Gov. Sarah Palin. So where are the feminists when a conservative woman is degraded in this way?
Note Gov. Palin’s comment (emphasis is mine).
Echoing her response to Bashir’s comments and apology last month, Palin added that those attacks are usually targeted toward conservative women and said there is an “obvious” double standard.
“As I’ve said before, the target of the attack is usually more significant than what the attack, the articulated words used, actually are and that’s part of that double standard,” Palin said, adding that she hasn’t heard from any feminist groups or organizations.
Make no mistake — today’s feminist movement is about Leftist politics, not empowering women.