Vernal Utah Police Charge Man Who Paid $25 Medical Bill With Pennies

June 4, 2011

VERNAL, UTAH – City officials say a Uintah County man was recently cited for paying a medical bill with pennies.

According to a release from Vernal City on Friday, May 27, Vernal resident Jason West entered Basin (medical) Clinic prepared to dispute a bill of $25.00 that he allegedly owed.

After asking if they accepted cash, city officials say West dumped 2500 pennies onto the counter and demanded that they count it. The pennies were strewn about the counter and the floor, and when West was advised that the police would be called, he left.

City officials say West was later contacted by the Vernal Police Department and issued a citation for Disorderly Conduct.

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Burning Taxpayer Dollars The Whole Way, Crazed Cheney Washington Prosecutor Julie McKay Took 99 Cent “Theft” Case To Jury Trial – Jury Took 5 Minutes To Return Not Guilty Verdict

April 27, 2011

CHENEY, WASHINGTON – Call it the great hot dog caper. Or maybe the greatly overblown hot dog caper would be more accurate.

One day last December, Eastern Washington University student John Richardson got himself a German sausage at the self-serve counter at Mitchell’s IGA in Cheney. He ate it as he shopped for peanut butter (crunchy), jelly, bread and other items. When he left, he forgot to pay for the 99-cent dog – though he did pay for more than $28 in groceries.

Store managers approached him once he left the store, refused his efforts to pay for it, and held him for the police to arrive when things got heated. Thirteen weeks later, Richardson was found not guilty by a baffled jury with a minimum of deliberation.

“From all the testimony, you’d have to be an idiot to not realize that the guy simply forgot,” said juror Patrick Reeves. “It took the jury about five minutes to come to a verdict.”

Five minutes would have been about the right time to devote to the case, start to finish. Instead, the taxpayers of Cheney paid for the full legal megillah: The officer who arrived, cuffed the protesting Richardson, and wrote a report in which he described the “stolen” property as a “bronze” German sausage; the prosecuting attorney, who said Richardson’s demeanor and a 12-year-old shoplifting charge on his record persuaded her to pursue the case; the public defender; the judge; the jury pool …

“To me it’s an outrage,” Richardson said. “I just think it was a frivolous thing.”

From the perspective of a store owner, a certain zeal about shoplifting is understandable. In the grocery business, margins are slim, and theft takes a big toll. In a family-owned business like Mitchell’s, the owners can take it even more personally. But it’s hard to understand why this zeal wasn’t tempered somewhere along the way.

Cheney Municipal Prosecutor Julie McKay said she simply doesn’t buy Richardson’s claim that he forgot to pay. She said that it isn’t unusual for someone to steal something while purchasing something else, that a lot of people accused of a crime deny it, and that the fact that Richardson was arguing with the store managers after they confronted him influenced her decision.

“Did I want to try that? Certainly not,” McKay said. “From my perspective, he took something without paying for it. … The jury didn’t feel he was guilty. I disagree with that.”

Everyone seems to agree that Richardson offered to pay for the hot dog when he was confronted by store employees outside the store. The one exception to this is the police report, in which a store manager is quoted saying Richardson refused to pay for the hot dog. According to Reeves, Richardson and public defender Don Richter, that was at odds with testimony at the trial from everyone, including store employees.

“When my client was confronted, he immediately said ‘I’m sorry, I’ll pay for it,’ ” Richter said.

To the store owners, the question of intent was beside the point. Someone who leaves without paying for something has stolen. If you let this slide, where do you draw the line? But that’s simply not the way the law works – a person must intend to steal something for it to be theft.

McKay said the reason this ended up before a jury is that Richardson refused to accept a deal. Here’s an example of a deal he was offered: In exchange for the charges being dropped, he’d pay restitution for the sausage, and pay the store owners a $200 civil penalty.

“So now the $1 hot dog was a $201 hot dog,” Richter said.

The case went to trial Feb. 25. Richardson said that he was committed to proving his innocence, and because he knew that the specter of a shoplifting conviction can hang over you – as his conviction as an 18-year-old had done. But he was adamant that he did not steal the hot dog. After he got it, he walked around the store and ate it in full view of everyone, planning to pay for it with his groceries at the cashier, he said. The managers were watching him closely, and he was aware of them watching – which would make him a pretty poor thief indeed, if it wasn’t an oversight. When he was confronted outside the store, he said the store employees taunted and insulted him, and refused to accept either his explanation or his money.

One of them said, “It’s too late now. We got you,” Richardson said. “It was very humiliating.”

Store officials declined to comment, but it’s clear from court records and interviews that they view this confrontation differently, and say that Richardson was uncooperative and instigated conflict rather than trying to resolve it.

I think it’s safe to say that nobody wanted the case to wind up before a jury, but nobody was willing to budge. Richardson wanted to be cleared, and the prosecutor wanted to send a message – or at least not send the wrong kind of message.

In the end, though, the jury wasn’t on board.

“If you really want to send a message,” Reeves said, “get a good case.”

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Florida Caught Pissing Away Taxpayer Dollars Buying Super Hero Capes For The Unemployed

April 19, 2011

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Florida officials are investigating an unemployment agency that spent public money to give 6,000 superhero capes to the jobless.

Workforce Central Florida spent more than $14,000 on the red capes as part of its “Cape-A-Bility Challenge” public relations campaign. The campaign featured a cartoon character, “Dr. Evil Unemployment,” who needs to be vanquished.

Florida’s unemployment agency director asked Monday for an investigation of the regional operation’s spending after the Orlando Sentinel published a story about the program. State director Cynthia Lorenzo said the spending appeared to be “insensitive and wasteful.”

Workforce Central Florida Director Gary J. Earl defends the program, saying it is part of a greater effort to connect with the community. The agency says it served 210,000 people during its last fiscal year, placing nearly 59,000 in jobs.

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Man Charged By Mason Ohio Police After Barking At Barking Police Dog

April 6, 2011

MASON, OHIO– Police say an Ohio man has been charged with a misdemeanor for barking at a police dog.

A police report says 25-year-old Ryan James Stephens was charged with teasing a police dog in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason.

Officer Bradley Walker wrote that he heard the K9 dog barking uncontrollably inside his patrol car while he was investigating a car crash at a pub early Sunday morning. Walker says Stephens was making barking noises and hissing at the animal.

Walker reported that Stephens said “the dog started it” when asked why he was harassing the animal. The officer said Stephens appeared highly intoxicated.

There was no answer to calls to Stephens’ home in Mason. He is to appear April 21 in municipal court.

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600,000 US Taxpayer Dollars For Gurgling Toad Sculpture?

March 31, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – A $600,000 frog sculpture that lights up, gurgles “sounds of nature” and carries a 10-foot fairy girl on its back could soon be greeting Defense Department employees who plan to start working at the $700 million Mark Center in Alexandria, Va. this fall. That is unless a new controversy over the price tag of the public art doesn’t torpedo the idea.

Decried as wasteful spending that will be seen by just a couple thousand of daily workers who arrive on bus shuttles, foes have tried to delay the decision, expected tomorrow, April 1. But in an E-mail, an Army Corps of Engineers official said that the decision can’t be held up because it would impact completion of the huge project.

The City of Alexandria just announced that there are four works of art being considered and that a final decision needs to be made fast. The artwork was put on display for public comment from March 24 to today. The Alexandria News first reported the hasty announcement to decide a winner.

The schedule surprised some who thought that the costly artwork project was on the “back burner,” according to critic Donald Buch, a member of the mayor’s advisory committee overseeing the Mark Center project. “What’s the rush?” he asked.

Buch says he’s not opposed to art, just high-priced works that won’t be seen by many. He estimates that only 2,500 will see the artwork every day as they use the bus transfer station at the Mark Center. “Who the heck is going to see it,” he asked. “To spend six hundred grand to amuse the same people every day is nuts.”

The Mark Center is one of the facilities that thousands of defense workers will be reporting to as part of the Base Realignment and Closure plan, or BRAC, that is shifting workers around Virginia and Maryland. The BRAC plan itself has been criticized as wasteful.

The four art proposals for the bus terminal include works for a wall and sculpture. But the one drawing most attention is the fairy and frog from artist Cheryl Foster. Her proposals describes the sculpture this way: “A 10-foot fairy, using an American Toad as ‘transportation,’ scurries to the entrance of the station. The interior of the toad is illuminated and the sounds of nature emanate from his throat.” She said that nature inspired her.

Buch suggested instead that the Corps should consider a nature park or water feature, not a toad.

According to the Corps, the artwork was the city’s idea. A city official, however, said that Alexandria officials didn’t demand art, but just asked that public artwork be included in the structure. What’s more, the official said that the $600,000 is federal money, and that no Alexandria funds will pay for the art.

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Feds Admit That 1,825 Miles Of Mexican Border Is Not Under Control Of US Border Patrol – Nothing To Stop Illegal Crossings Between US And Mexico

March 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Richard M. Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office (which is responsible for “auditing agency operations to determine whether federal funds are being spent efficiently and effectively”), told the Senate Homeland Security Committee yesterday that the federal government can actually prevent or stop illegal entries into the United States along only 129 miles of the 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.

That leaves 1,825 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border where the Border Patrol cannot prevent or stop an illegal entry.

Nonetheless, Stana told the committee, the Border Patrol itself says it has established “an acceptable level of control” along 873 miles of the 1,954-mile-long southwest border. This is because of the way the Border Patrol defines “an acceptable level of control” of the border.

“According to Border Patrol,” Stana told the committee, “an acceptable level of border control is established when it has the capability (i.e., resources) to deter or detect and apprehend incursions at the immediate border or after entry.” [Emphasis added.]

In addition to the 129 miles where the Border Patrol says it can actually “deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries” at the border itself, Stana told the committee, there are another 744 miles where the Border Patrol says it has the capability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entrants after they have entered the county and penetrated U.S. territory to “distances of up to 100 miles or more away from the immediate border.”

The 3,918-mile-long northern border of the United States is virtually wide open, according to Stana’s testimony. The Border Patrol, Stana said, reports that it has established “an acceptable level of control” along only 69 miles of this border and that of those 69 miles there are only 2 miles where the Border Patrol can actually prevent or stop an illegal entry.

Along the remaining, 3,916 miles of the northern border the Border Patrol does not have the capability to deter or detect and apprehend an intruder.

“As we testified in February 2011 about our preliminary observations on this measure, Border Patrol indicated that in fiscal year 2010, 873 of the nearly 2,000 southwest border miles and 69 of the nearly 4,000 northern border miles between Washington and Maine were at an acceptable level of control,” Stana told the committee in his written testimony.

“Within this border security classification, Border Patrol further distinguished between the ability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries at the immediate border versus after entry—at distances of up to 100 miles or more away from the immediate border—into the United States,” Stana wrote.

“Our preliminary analysis of these Border Patrol data showed that the agency reported a capability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries at the immediate border across 129 of the 873 southwest border miles and 2 of the 69 northern border miles,” Stana testified. “Our preliminary analysis also showed that Border Patrol reported the ability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries after they crossed the border for an additional 744 southwest border miles and 67 northern border miles.”

Stana said that in fiscal 2010 “about $11.9 billion [was] appropriated to secure the entire U.S. border (for personnel, infrastructure, and technology).”

Only about a third of this money was spent to secure the border in the vast territories between the official ports of entry (POE). “CBP reported that $3.6 billion was appropriated in fiscal year 2010 for border security efforts between the POEs,” Stana testified.

Overall, the federal government spent $3.72 trillion in fiscal 2010, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That means the $11.9 billion the government spent on securing the entire U.S. border equaled 0.3 percent of federal spending and the $3.6 billion the federal government spent on securing the border between the ports of entry equaled about 0.1 percent.

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Lawrence Massachusetts Director Of Anti-Poverty Agency Worked 15 Hours A Week For $144,000 A Year

March 26, 2011

LAWRENCE, MASSACHUSETTS – The AWOL boss for the city’s leading anti-poverty agency walked out the door with a $9,829.91 check after he quit Wednesday.

Former Greater Lawrence Community Action Council Executive Director Philip F. Laverriere Sr. received the money for his last days worked and unused vacation time. Thomas Schiavone, president of the agency’s board of directors, said Laverriere is not eligible for retiree health benefits because he resigned.

Laverriere, 85, left the agency four days after The Eagle-Tribune revealed he spent as few as 15 hours in the office a week, and earned as much as $144,000 a year. The rest of the work day, Laverriere was found in the Elks Clubs playing card games and video poker and indulging his taste for cigars.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers $29 million tax dollars to the agency, has brought in the Northeast Institute for Quality Community Action (NIQUA) to review “governance, management, and fiscal issues” at GLCAC. Representatives from NIQUA will be at the agency next week for two days to do an audit and talk to employees. They are expected to file a report on their findings with the state April 4

Schiavone said Laverriere is eligible to collect on the 403B retirement plan the agency offers — which is much like a 401K plan but for nonprofits. According to the agency’s employee handbook, GLCAC matches up 50 percent of an employee’s contribution up to a maximum of 3 percent of the person’s salary.

In the 2009 tax year, Laverriere received a $2,066 match in contributions from the agency.

Laverriere was head of the agency for 37 years. The agency has 310 employees and oversees an array of poverty programs including immigration assistance, heat subsidies, and child care.

Its $30 million budget is funded almost entirely through state and federal money. In the interim, Assistant Executive Director Charles LoPiano will oversee the agency.

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