Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for March, 2012

UW, WA researchers: tobacco-prevention ROI more than 5-1

by March 30th, 2012

Washington state has gotten a good bang for its buck on tobacco-prevention spending, at a rate of more than five dollars in benefits for every dollar spent, according to a recent analysis published in the American Journal of Public Health by a team including researchers from the University of Washington and the Washington state Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. Tobacco control efforts in Washington state consist of three key approaches: price hikes (through tax increases on tobacco products); policies (such as enforcement of an indoor public smoking ban, and now a spread of local measures banning smoking in government-controlled outdoor properties); and programs (such as prevention education, particularly aimed at children and teens).

At least $5.73 saved for every dollar spent
The state spent almost $259.7 million on all forms of tobacco prevention from 2000 through 2009 and the researchers say they conservatively calculate the savings at $1.5 billion, for a return-on-investment (ROI) ratio of $5.73 saved for every dollar spent. The $1.5 billion in savings came in the form of almost 36,000 hospitalizations avoided for diseases found in peer-reviewed scientific literature to be significantly linked to smoking, such as heart disease, strokes, respiratory disease and cancer.

Report: county auditors, treasurers group scammed for $73K

by March 28th, 2012

A fraud report just issued by the Washington State Auditor’s office says the former financial operations manager of the Washington Association of County Officials (WACO) embezzled more than $73,000 from the group by writing checks to herself and doctoring records, but was under no real oversight to begin with. WACO documents and public records show that the former finance manager’s name is Robin A. Chase, 44, of Olympia. Thurston County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Thompson told Public Data Ferret he will have an announcement this Friday March 30 on whether criminal charges will be filed against Chase. The case was referred to that office in December for consideration of first degree theft and forgery charges. Thompson said he’d been waiting for the auditor’s report to be issued before deciding what to do.

(UPDATE, 4/3/12: In Thurston County Superior Court documents filed today, Robin Ann Chase is charged with with first degree theft, a Class B felony. The charging papers say she waived her Miranda rights and provided a taped admission to Olympia Police she diverted 59 WACO checks totaling $73,086 into her personal account at a credit union. Also according to the documents, Chase “said she stole the money because she was going through chemotherapy for her cancer, because she was on prescription painkillers, and because there was significant stress going on in her family.” Arraignment is April 17 at 10 a.m.)

$61K DSHS supe used work as playground, pays $1.5K fine

by March 28th, 2012

A supervisor at the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,500 for using state time and equipment for his own interests, in apparent violation of the state’s Ethics in Public Service Act, according to an order approved March 16 by the Washington State Executive Ethics Board. Kevin McStay, 44, of Gig Harbor, who was classified as a “Social Worker 4” unit supervisor for DSHS, in 2008 and 2009 used work hours and equipment to promote his rock band (named “Classic Ride”). According to a whistleblower report by the state auditor which led to the ethics board action, witnesses conveyed that McStay “disrupted colleagues in the office” and “did not complete his work because of the amount of time he spent on personal matters.”

UW: $100K-plus Harborview supe faked hours for more pay

by March 26th, 2012

Another case of employee ethical misconduct at King County’s Harborview Medical Center – operated by the University of Washington’s UW Medicine unit – has come to light, and is expected to be highlighted in an upcoming Washington state auditor’s office investigative report. Using the Washington Public Records Act, Public Data Ferret has obtained a copy of an October 2011 UW internal audit describing the falsification of work hours records, leading to unearned pay of almost $9,000 by a nuclear medicine technologist-supervisor in Harborview’s radiology department, named Terza S. Koches. She was already earning more than $100,000 per year. Her registered voter address is in West Seattle’s Fairmount Park neighborhood.

Court says Kirkland firm must answer age bias firing charge

by March 22nd, 2012

In a ruling published this week the Washington State Court of Appeals reversed a “summary judgement” signed by King County Superior Court Judge Douglass A. North that a yard foreman working in Dutch Harbor, Alaska for a Kirkland, Wash.-based marine services firm essentially had no basis for claiming he was fired due to age discrimination – rather than intoxication and disorderly conduct, as his employer claimed. The decision by Division One of the state appeals court means that Craig Rice of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, will be able to proceed in King County Superior Court in Washington state with his age bias lawsuit against Offshore Systems, Inc. (OSI), headquartered at 12019 76th Place NE in Kirkland.

Review, comment on our Knight News Challenge bid

by March 22nd, 2012

It’s brief, and we hope you’ll take a look at our Public Data Ferret project’s entry in the Knight News Challenge funding competition, for innovative news start-ups. Add a supportive comment if you like – very soon please – finalists will be announced April 2 – and share the link and a brief introduction with your networks on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Tumblr. The theme this round is use of existing “networks” and platforms, which includes what we do: building on online government information sources; and building awareness and working partnerships around our work in the community. We’re humbled by the supportive response so far, that you’ll see in the 40-plus comments from hyper-local bloggers, news professionals, technologists, educators, students, readers and others. Here are several comments among the many posted that really capture the value propositions we’re trying to embody.

Ex-Marine, and ex-Seattle news exec warn U.S. Senate against overly broad disclosure shields

by March 21st, 2012

In a recent testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee, a retired Marine and a national proponent of government transparency with long and deep ties to Seattle, ratcheted up concerns about a recent military attempt to censor from the public eye information on drinking water and public health risks. Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger (Ret.), who believes his daughter died of leukemia as a result of contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 1985, was disappointed that the U.S. Marine Corps decided to remove from an official study, information regarding locations of water sources in the area. It has been the latest in a series of hurdles he has had to overcome in the case.

Ex-Bellevue teacher, SPU innovator jailed for sex crimes

by March 20th, 2012

A then-resident of Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood who had deep ties to Seattle Pacific University during his tenure as a science teacher in the Bellevue school district, this month had his state teaching license permanently revoked following a guilty plea last fall to sex crimes with a Bellevue student when she was 15 and 16 years old. Sentencing papers show Matthew James Jones, now 32, is serving two 15-month terms concurrently after he pled guilty in September, 2011 to two felony counts of first degree sexual misconduct with a minor, a girl he taught as a middle-schooler in Bellevue. State corrections records indicate he’s now incarcerated in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Although his Spring, 2011 arrest was widely reported, there had been no news coverage of the actual outcomes.