Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘disclosure’ Category

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.)

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.

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

by 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.

UW axed assistant dean who faked credits for 139 students

by February 24th, 2012

An ethically dicey work-around to help University of Washington School of Social Work master’s degree students maintain eligibility for financial aid and tuition waivers led to the forced resignation of an assistant dean named William G. “Gary” Olson. The Bellevue resident is now an adjunct instructor at Bellevue College, and claims through his attorney he was wronged by UW for engaging in what was an accepted practice there – albeit one about which he himself raised the initial questions that led to his exit.

Well away from public view UW found last year in an Internal Audit division investigation that from 2003 to 2011 Olson, the Assistant Dean of Student Services at its School of Social Work, awarded 139 students passing grades in a “Readings In Social Work” independent study course he taught, even though they did no work for the course. According to the audit division’s report dated June, 2011 – and obtained recently by Public Data Ferret through a public records request – the actions by Olson rendered invalid more than $200,000 in financial aid awarded to 54 of those students. University officials firmly maintain that Olson’s actions were isolated and that strong corrective steps have been taken.

Tutorial: Using the Washington Achievement Data Explorer

by December 20th, 2011

You can easily compare state achievement test score results between school districts and between schools within a district, using the University of Washington-Bothell’s Washington Achievement Data Explorer (WADE) tool online. It was developed and is sponsored by UW-Bothell’s Center For Education Data and Research. You can also survey a broad range of student, district and school data, and see whether districts or schools are exceeding projected performance levels on achievement tests, based on percentage of low-income students. Let’s explore the Explorer. First, go to the WADE site. You’ll see a panel showing three ways to dig in.