May 5, 2016 |
The State of New Jersey has permitted a single contractor to dominate the marketplace for online tax-lien auctions without requiring competitive bidding or conducting any meaningful oversight, an independent investigation has found. The vendor and its partner reaped $1.7 million from municipalities to conduct the sales in 2014 and 2015 alone, a revenue stream that is projected to grow, according to a report released Tuesday by the State Commission of Investigation. Every municipality in New Jersey is required to conduct a sale at least once a year to try to "recoup the value of liens filed for delinquent property taxes and for unpaid fees involving municipal services such as water/sewer and garbage collection," the report said.
April 17, 2016 |
Budget and staff cuts have left the state Department of Environmental Protection ill-equipped for its role in monitoring the installation of tens of thousands of miles of natural-gas pipelines over the next decade, DEP Secretary John Quigley said Friday. After what Quigley described as "years of relentless budget cuts," the department has 671 fewer positions than it did seven years ago, an estimated 20 percent decrease. Of these lost jobs, 441 were permit writers and pipeline inspectors, he said.
April 14, 2016 |
The Philadelphia School District's charter school office is too small to oversee the 83 charter schools in the city, state Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale said in a report released Tuesday morning. "By failing to have sufficient staffing and resources to adequately perform and document routine oversight measures, the district is unable to verify the validity of hundreds of millions of dollars it is paying to charter schools in tuition payments," DePasquale wrote in the performance audit.
January 3, 2016
Mike Oxley, 71, a former U.S. representative who helped write landmark antifraud legislation following a wave of corporate scandals that brought down Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc., died Friday in his sleep in McLean, Va., after suffering from non-small-cell lung cancer, a type of lung cancer seen in nonsmokers, said his wife, Patricia Oxley. Mr. Oxley was chairman of the Lung Cancer Alliance board of directors. Though his cancer was a shock to the nonsmoker, he took the diagnosis in stride, said Laurie Fenton Ambrose, the alliance's president and CEO. Mr. Oxley "never lost his irreverent sense of humor and his distinctive laugh that could be heard throughout the office whenever he came by for a visit," Ambrose said.
October 19, 2015 |
Pat McGuckin barely recognized her 39-year-old son. Once a personal trainer and bodybuilder, Michael now was exhausted, his limbs bloated, his mood so volatile that he ripped the phone off her wall. He told his worried mother that he was in pain from a car accident but that a doctor was helping him. On Oct. 21, 2007, his younger brother found Michael in bed, his body cold. A few days later, their mother stared at the words on the death certificate, struggling to understand what had killed her son. She dialed Richard J. Hollawell, a friend of Michael's since childhood in Northeast Philadelphia.
September 18, 2015 |
Philadelphia's regular public school buildings are so run down that the cost to repair them is estimated at $4 billion. Those buildings aren't likely to get face-lifts with the School District limping from funding crisis to funding crisis. In contrast, the city's charter schools have received $500 million in taxpayer-backed bonds for new or improved buildings. The gaping inequity exists in part because the legislature has not properly updated the state's charter school law since it was passed.
August 29, 2015 |
For the second time in a decade, Cheyney University has failed to properly manage financial aid that it awards students, and as a result may owe the U.S. Department of Education more than $29 million. Errors were found in nearly 85 percent of about 4,400 financial aid records reviewed from 2011 to 2014, according to a report released Thursday by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university, one of 14 in the system, could not provide high school transcripts for 45 percent of the students who received aid during that period, the system said.
August 6, 2015 |
Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz is calling on the Water Revenue Bureau to increase oversight of its process for adjusting bills, arguing that its system invites abuse by employees. Bureau employees made $110 million worth of adjustments to water bills in the 2014 fiscal year without authorization from a supervisor, according to a report Butkovitz's office released Tuesday. Those adjustments were not necessarily improper, as some employees are allowed to make some changes, including canceling and refunding, without formal approval from a superior.
July 14, 2015
THE FIRING OF teacher Margie Winters by Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion on the basis of Winters' marriage to another woman comes at a time that guaranteed this to be a hot-button issue. It's just weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the legality of gay marriage, and months away from a visit from the pope, who is known for his messages of love, forgiveness and his suggestion of tolerance for gays. Layer this on top of many Catholics struggling to reconcile their faith against decades of church scandals involving child abuse by priests.
July 3, 2015 |
EDUCATION is front and center as Pennsylvania's budget heads into overtime. A key element in this debate is whether additional school funding should be tied to new accountability measures in the form of House Bill 1225 and Senate Bill 6, both of which would allow a more forceful state hand in governing the state's lowest performing schools. (S.B. 6 passed the Senate on a party-line, 27-22 vote on Sunday evening.) In the abstract, linking increased funding with oversight makes sense; however, this particular proposal deserves careful scrutiny.