Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for March, 2012

King County whistleblower fired day of complaint, but no foul

by Matt Rosenberg March 12th, 2012

After she claimed she was forced to donate volunteer labor to a women’s sports officials association founded by her boss in King County government, a web designer in the Accountable Business Transformation unit of the county’s Department of Executive Services – Lynelle Hofman of Edmonds – lodged a formal ethics complaint with the King County Ombudsman’s Office and was fired the very same day by her division chief Mike Herrin.

The reason given was that she had accessed her supervisor’s computer about a month prior, to forward herself a series of emails between the supervisor and a personnel official about her pending request to be classified as an hourly employee so she could get paid for all hours she actually worked. Contemplated punishment for that action had ranged from a week’s suspension to worse, but had not been decided until several hours after Hofman formally lodged the ethics complaint against her supervisor in DES’s ABT sector, Cindy C-Wilson, of Shoreline.

Ombudsman finds against supervisor, who later resigns
C-Wilson (her last name) was found in a final report issued by the ombudsman’s office in late October to have violated the county’s ethics code by using her work computer to conduct a private business and by entering into a business relationship with a subordinate. C-Wilson voluntarily resigned in November, 2011, seven months after Hofman was discharged on the day of her complaint, April 6, 2011.

Hofman, now 44, subsequently lodged another complaint with the ombudsman’s office in September, of retaliatory firing. But in late January of this year the ombudsman’s office issued another report concluding the charge was not supported by a preponderance of evidence. The reports were obtained by Public Data Ferret using the Washington Public Records Act.

Saturday forum in Seattle to honor local watchdog heroes, and probe “Open Government: Past, Present and Future”

by Matt Rosenberg March 8th, 2012

Saturday March 10 in Seattle during national Sunshine Week the Washington Coalition for Open Government hosts a day-long conference, “Open Government: Past, Present and Future.” More details on the event and registration here. Highlights include in-person stories of citizen activists from Lake Forest Park, Everett and Skamania County who used public records laws to daylight secrets about a government weapons cache, conflict of interest in a county auditor’s office, and a bogus charity. Panel discussions will look at lessons learned in the 40 years since passage of Washington State’s landmark open records initiative, and at the role of technology and community in open government, going forward.

Connected Seattle city worker stayed on payroll after felony

by Matt Rosenberg March 7th, 2012

In a ruling issued this week a state appeals court upheld the convictions for first-degree perjury, and gross misdemeanor counts of stalking and cyberstalking by a then-City of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department employee named Andre L. (Luis) Franklin, now 30. The case stemmed from what the appeals court ruling details as a sexually-themed online vendetta by Franklin against another city parks worker, a woman with whom he had been romantically involved.

But the story goes deeper. Although Franklin was placed on leave in late 2008 after the victim notified city personnel authorities and parks officials understood him to have admitted the cyberstalking; public records show he somehow landed another city job – as a painter for Seattle Public Utilities earning $57,464 base pay in 2009 and $63,739 gross pay in 2010. Though public records confirm he was paid for a full year’s work in 2009 as painter for SPU, Public Data Ferret has learned he did not actually begin working at SPU until December of 2009. In addition, his defense attorney Steven Witchley of Seattle confirms Franklin is currently employed in a temporary position as a solid waste inspector for SPU.

UW, Group Health study: some pills raise breast cancer risk

by Matt Rosenberg March 5th, 2012

Delving into a hot-button topic about which they state all the science is distinctly not settled, a female-led team of researchers and doctors from the University of Washington in Seattle and the Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative HMO – in preliminary findings of a new study – report that for women aged 20 to 49, use of certain types of oral contraceptives within the previous year are “associated with particularly elevated risk” of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. The abstract-only findings were published online in mid-February in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention (link, screen shot.) The findings are also highlighted by Group Health at their Web site in a brief titled, “Taking newer birth control pills may be linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.”

The lead author, Elisabeth Beaber, a UW PhD candidate in epidemiology, declined to discuss the published first-stage research outcomes prior to further peer review. Meanwhile, Beaber was scheduled to give a presentation on the current report March 6 at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society of Preventive Oncology in Washington D.C. as part of a session (referenced in the meeting agenda on p. 12) titled “Breast Cancer: Risk Prediction, Screening and Behavior Modification.”

The preliminary results of the study show that for women age 20 to 49, using within the last year an oral contraceptive formulation with high-dose estrogen or a progestin called ethynodial diacetate raises the odds ratios to 2.7 and 2.6, respectively, of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer within that time frame – compared to women who do not use those formulations. An odds ratio of 1 represents no association.

Hidden report: UW sacked burn unit aide for diverting funds

by Matt Rosenberg March 1st, 2012

According to a University of Washington internal audit report obtained by Public Data Ferret through the Washington Public Records Act, King County’s Harborview Medical Center – which is managed by the UW Medicine unit – last June 30 fired a recreational therapist in the Burn Therapy Department named Kim Beitelspacher after she misappropriated more than $17,000 from HMC’s petty cash account. She did this by getting approvals from an inattentive manager for double reimbursements of numerous portable DVD players she bought for recuperating burn patients. According to its web site Harborview is the sole Level 1 trauma and burn center for adults and children serving Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

Now, a state audit of the case is nearing completion
Responding to suggestions in the UW internal audit, Harborview management pledged to work with University Student Fiscal Services to seek restitution from Beitelspacher, 50, of Puyallup, and to “work with the Seattle Police Department to ensure that the case is filed with the King County Prosecutor’s Office” by November 2011. The case was reported to Seattle Police on July 22, 2011, but the prosecutor’s office reports there is no active case involving Beitelspecher. Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb said the case is assigned to the department’s fraud and forgery unit and their investigation is continuing.