Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Open Government’ Category

IRS overpaid $100B in earned income credit from ’03-’11

by April 29th, 2012

An audit report from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Inspector General For Tax Administration says the Internal Revenue Service has overpaid U.S. taxpayers between $99 billion and $119 billion in earned income tax credit (EITC) payments, or allowances, from fiscal year 2003 through fiscal 2011. The 2011 estimate was $13.7 billion to $16.7 billion. The EITC is a tax benefit for low- and moderate-income workers. The Treasury audit notes the EITC overpayment estimates actually come from the IRS itself.

U.S. audit accents broad problems at VA’s Puget Sound hospitals

by April 13th, 2012

A new oversight report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (OIG) identifies problems with sedation safety, colorectal cancer screening, sanitation, medication management, coordination of care, quality assurance and patient satisfaction at the VA’s Puget Sound Health Care System-Seattle, for vets who’ve served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The audit covers a look into quality of care at just the system’s hospital complex on Columbian Way in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, and the VA Hospital at American Lakes in Lakewood, Wash., near Tacoma – but not its additional seven Western Washington clinics, confirmed a VA OIG official in Washington, D.C. VA Puget Sound Seattle calls itself “the primary referral site for the VA’s Northwest Region” serving 80,000 veterans in several states. Care is provided in collaboration with physicians of the University of Washington’s UW Medicine unit.

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.”

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.