State officials have cleared three guards of accusations that they incited violence among girls held at a Rome juvenile detention facility. One of the guards was fired, though, for failing to prevent a Dec. 7 attack, and the other two were disciplined for unrelated policy violations. Some girls in the facility said they believed guards were complicit in some violence, but officials said the guards passed polygraph exams and “the totality of witness statements and information” did not support the charges.
Rep. Ed Rynders charged the state ethics commission last week with wasteful spending even though he and House budget officials knew little or nothing about some of the details, interviews with state officials show. Nevertheless, the agency’s critics did not retreat
, while acknowledging that they really didn’t know enough in some cases to render an opinion. “Until you have the detail, it’s kinda hard to say whether it was a good or bad management decision,” House Budget Director Martha Wigton said.
State legislators say they welcome transparency regarding their personal finances — corporate and real estate holdings, government contracts and the like.But who decides what constitutes transparency? Who checks whether they’re telling us all that we’re entitled to know? They do. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, transparency is too important to be left to the politicians.
State officials today agreed to pay $28.7 million for a 10,000-acre bear habitat in middle Georgia but still won’t release the appraisals used to determine that value. Houston County values the land at $1,165 an acre for tax purposes. The sellers, who paid $1,600 an acre six years ago before the real estate market collapsed, are selling it to the state for $2,875 an acre. Officials released appraisal summaries that say the property is worth that much, but declined to disclose the full appraisals until the deal is closed.
State budget hijacks dedicated user fees DeKalb schools move construction suit to federal court State officials broaden CRCT investigation
Hundreds of state officials — legislators, department heads, members of boards and commissions — haven’t submitted financial disclosures that were due last July. Countless politicians also failed to report campaign finances on time — or at all. But the State Ethics Commission, crippled by budget cuts, usually does nothing more than e-mail them a reminder. Says Tom Plank, interim executive secretary of the commission: “We can’t even mail them a letter.” Read my Ethics Watch column online here in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
New York state put hundreds of dollars in federal stimulus money into food stamp accounts, causing a literal run on the bank last month. Families of about 800,000 low-income children qualified for the one-time payments — $200 per child for back-to-school supplies and clothes. Critics said the state bungled it by attaching no strings to how the money could be spent. But equally problematic, 23 states haven’t applied for these stimulus dollars yet, many because they can’t afford to appropriate the 20 percent matching funds that are required.
Atlanta’s public school system has found no “concrete, non-statistical evidence” of cheating on fifth-grade CRCT tests last year at Deerwood Academy. State officials in June said a disproportionate number of erasures suggested Deerwood students’ answers had been changed improperly. But attorney Penn Payne, hired to investigate the case for APS, blamed the discrepancies today on “negligence in record keeping, lack of energy and diligence in following the rules, and supervisory failure.” Read on to download the full report.
Eighteen Georgia schools improved fifth-graders’ CRCT scores enough in 2008 to trigger suspicions of cheating, the Augusta Chronicle reports. State officials last week threw out four schools’ scores for apparent cheating and have dropped investigations into two others. The state found 18 schools with statistically remarkable improvements in retest scores. The list includes Slater Elementary […]
The head of Georgia’s Vital Records unit was fired after co-workers found unsecured files from the federal witness protection program in his office. State officials had said Richard Wheat (right), 43, was let go last month for “gross mismanagement.” They provided no specific explanation for his dismissal. Wheat was on leave in April when other […]
Car dealer Allan Vigil (right) has sold $9.8 million of cars and trucks to the University System of Georgia, which he oversees as a member of the state Board of Regents, since 2002. That figure represents just a fraction of his dealerships’ $76 million in sales to state agencies in the past seven years, according […]